So, learning French is hard.  Like, “my brain is going to explode” hard.  First, you have to get used to the fact that “the” is in front of everything.  As in, “I am studying the French” meaning the language and NOT the people.  Except, not always.  Because my colleagues don’t speak “in the English” to me.  They just speak “in English.”  Oh, and languages are not capitalized in “the French.”

And, when you think you’re managing to remember “le français” and you mention “le France,” a polite French person tells you it’s la France.  Because the country is female, but the language is male.  Clearly. 😨

I’ve realized that I have to keep studying daily though.  If you think you’ll learn a language through osmosis by just living in the country, you’re wrong.  You will pick up on things here and there, but it isn’t super easy to meet French people (generally) and my co-workers speak English to me, so I’m only becoming really good at the things I have to do often, like order food, ask where something is, etc.  For those forced into using the language more often, I’m sure the learning comes more quickly.  I could be a little hard on myself though because the new French exchange people I’ve met have all been surprised that I’ve only lived here 6 months total with 15 hours of tutoring and my only other learning has been online . . . well, until they try my SPOKEN French.  Then, they realize that I write well because I have time to think about what I’m going to say and how to phrase it using words I know (and look up ones that I don’t). 😀

Winter Soup
One of my absolute favorite things about France is that you never really have an opportunity to become bored with the menu options.  There are always two things and, outside of a restaurant where one of the two is always the same beef steak with fries & salad, I don’t think I’ve had a full meal (starter and main dish or main dish and dessert) that was completely the same.  I don’t eat out like I used to – when my co-worker mentioned having salad on Mondays originally, I’d made a face; however, the salads aren’t basic.  There are a few with all lettuce, plenty of ham, peppers and mozzarella, etc, which I like, but my favorites are half lettuce and half pasta with either chicken and eggs or French ham and mozzarella.  There’s  a tuna option and crab option, but I’ve taken a pass on those and any with a non-vinaigrette dressing – the French do a REALLY good vinaigrette!  I frequently have salad two or three days a week now, but always with either a starter (galette or quiche) or a dessert (apple crumble, rice pudding, etc) since lunch is my bigger meal.

Speaking of the variety of foods, one of the reasons is that they take full advantage of both what’s in season and the time of year.  Winter is soup time!  And the sheer variety of soups is incredible (incroyable in French).  From a basic carrot soup (above) to a lentil soup served with a cold poached egg in the middle (didn’t get a pic of that one), if it’s growing this time of year, the French have probably made a soup out of it!

And the texture is completely varied.  You can have totally smooth soups (first one) or a soup that is a little more coarsely blended (second) with celery and carrots.  I also enjoy the veggies that aren’t so common in the US.  We eat pumpkin pie, but the French have pumpkin soup!  I’ve already missed out on soup one day though because they have so many different words for it.  There’s the basic “la soupe,” but a thicker soup is “le potage.”  The one that means a creamier soup (and I never remember is a soup) is “le velouté.”

Soup is a big enough thing here that I think there are probably 3-4 other names for different TYPES of soup.  I am a little sad that chèvre chaud salad was EVERYWHERE in the spring, but doesn’t seem to be as popular in the winter; however, this gives me something to look forward to come spring!  See, never a chance to get bored!  Of course, there are veggies that seem to be ubiquitous in French cuisine throughout the year and are used in 100 different ways, such as the leek.  There is even leek soup.

I have always been one of those people who hated vegetables and viewed it as a monumental sacrifice (that I made for my health) to force myself to eat them, but in France, they are served up in so many tasty different ways and varieties, that I find it easy to eat my veggies.  It’s just one of many reasons that I love living in France!