Tag Archives: food

Last stop in France–Marseille

After disembarking from the AmaKristina in Avignon, we went to Marseille for a couple of days. Marseille is a colorful and fairly hilly city, with lots to see and do near the Old Port.


Outdoor market in Marseille
Marseille Cathedral near the Old Port (not my picture)

Colorful shops and interesting decor are sprinkled throughout the City.

Lots of restaurant options and great seafood in Marseille. The first day, we had a fantastic lunch at La Brasserie de Joliette near the Old Port and the next day another excellent lunch at Nul Part Allieurs, also at the Old Port.

We did the Hop On/Hop Off bus to get a glimpse of the rest of the city and one of the most curious things we encountered was when our bus was attempting to turn right onto a narrow street, and a car was parked right at the corner so we could not get around it.

The bus driver honked several times, expecting someone to come out, but no one did. A few minutes and several honks of the horn later, a passerby saw our predicament and signaled for the bus driver to come to the car, where he pointed out a note on the front window. The bus driver read the note and called the number indicated on the note.

A few minutes later (and by now we have been sitting there for at least ten minutes), a woman sauntered to the car, casually took off her coat and got in, as though parking one’s car on a corner, blocking traffic and going about one’s business is what is done in Marseille–but the bus driver’s reaction clued us in that this was not what one usually does in Marseille. A lesson in French culture.

Travels from Lyon

After a few days in Lyon, my two friends and I boarded an Amawaterways river boat to begin our cruise south on the Rhone River to Avignon. But before we left Lyon, we took a tour of Les Halles de Lyon Paul Bocuse–an indoor market where the specialities of Lyon are found in abundance.

We tasted cheeses and meats (always with wine) and then dessert.

Cheese tasting at the Market
Macarons in many colors

We also took a walk along the river to the point where the Rhone and Saone Rivers meet. Along the way, we passed some interesting buildings.

Lyon is a city with a great deal of history and also innovative architecture.

ONLY LYON at the confluence of the two rivers

Fantastic French food

I took my first food picture at breakfast on day one in France, and then another at lunch and another at dinner. “At this rate,” I thought, “I will be photographing every meal I eat,” so I started being more selective. I want to share just a few to give you an idea of the abundance of great meals.

Barbizon is an artsy village with galleries and museums. We had a scupting class–my first time working with clay–and visited the Besharat Museum and Gallery which houses an eclectic collection of art and is also a boutique hotel. Lunch at Le Royal was this exceptional tuna nicoise salad, bread (of course) and beer.

Tuna nicoise salad, bread and beer at The Royal in Barbizon.

I had my first mussels in Fontainebleu and my last in Paris (with a few more along the way). These were at Les Cascades in Honfleur (and perhaps my favorite). Here, I learned the trick of using the shell instead of a fork.

Mussels in Honfleur
Les Cascades, Honfleur–serving my favorite mussels in France.

I usually like chocolate for dessert, but I had many excellent desserts in France that did not include chocolate.

Apple tart
The pastry selection at a outdoor stand.

First to Fontainebleau

From Ireland, I went to France for the beginning of a three-week tour which began in Fontainebleau–and each day began with pain au chocolat (I love a Country that offers chocolate first thing in the morning!).

Pain au chocolat

Chateau de Fontainebleau dates to the 12th century and has been added to, updated and modified over the centuries. It was a favorite of King Henri II, King Henri IV and Napoleon Bonaparte.

Chateau de Fontainebleau
The lake at the Chateau.

Although it was early spring, flowers were beginning to blossom.

Spring flowers at the Chateau de Fontainebleau
Spring flowers at the Chateau de Fontainebleau

Giving thanks

For seven years, I was the director of an adult literacy program in suburban Philadelphia. Immigrants from many countries filled our English as a Second Language classes, but most of the students in our family literacy program were from South Korea.

As part of this program, we hosted an American Thanksgiving dinner each year. It was a way to introduce immigrants to this cultural holiday and teach them some of our customs, including the foods we traditionally eat on Thanksgiving. Our staff prepared most of the food, but students were given recipes for side dishes and invited to contribute if they wanted.

Invariably, a few of the students would bring dishes from their culture, and we would include the kimchi and rice in our Thanksgiving meal.

Our guests at the literacy council Thanksgiving dinners would gingerly try bites of turkey and cranberry sauce, and I loved watching them register the different tastes and textures. Food is an important part of any culture, and this dinner was a wonderful opportunity for people to try something new.

I wished my parents had attended such a class.

Growing up, we never had turkey for Thanksgiving; apparently turkeys were not available in Poland. We had ham or kielbasa or stuffed cabbage and a duck soup that I fear most Americans would not even try. Mashed potatoes were probably the only thing our Thanksgiving dinners had in common with the rest of America.


My mother did not care when I came home from school excited about traditional Thanksgiving dinners; she had never cooked a turkey and did not see the need for it.

Being thankful was what the holiday was about to her, and I could see her point. But I always felt a bit odd when kids talked about turkey, stuffing and cranberry sauce—and I had nothing to contribute.

I have since come to understand that while we tend to think of one “traditional” American Thanksgiving dinner, the truth is that people in different regions of the country and from different ethnic backgrounds personalize Thanksgiving dinner. A simple Google search of “turkey stuffing” brings up hundreds of different recipes.

Merging cultures is part of the American tradition, and kimchi would have been as foreign to our Thanksgiving dinners growing up as the creamed onions I once had at a friend’s home in suburban Philadelphia or the Southern cornbread stuffing I was served in Virginia.

Recalling all those dinners this Thanksgiving made me think of the ways Americans can segregate ourselves into groups that reinforce our beliefs and allow us to stay in our comfort zones. We can tell ourselves that the Norman Rockwell portrait of a Thanksgiving dinner is the only true portrait, but that is just not true. Our country is made up of people from many different cultures and the blending of those cultures makes our country unique.

Honoring our heritage is important, but moving beyond our comfort zones makes life more interesting. Maybe it is time to try some kimchi.

Cultural Identity

I recently heard an interview with an author who was writing about cross-cultural identity. She had moved to the States from Africa in 2000. “You don’t have to cross an ocean to get a cross-cultural experience,” I thought.

Having just moved two states west (from Pennsylvania to Michigan), I am learning about cultural differences every day. Some of the differences between the two states are minor: there, soft drinks are called “soda” and here, “pop.” But other differences touch deeper issues of cultural identity.

One of the biggest differences is the basic Midwestern approach to life. Life seems to move at a slower pace here, and people tend to make more time for one another—whether it is family, a neighbor, a bank teller, sales clerk or even a bureaucrat.

In visits to the bank, I have heard about tellers’ children and vacations. Sales clerks go out of their way to be helpful. When people learn I recently moved here, I get a genuine “welcome to Michigan” and then often some questions about Pennsylvania. I have had to adjust to the fact that business transactions here are also social transactions.

Even when I went to get my driver’s license, the clerk welcomed me and asked how I was settling in. She made the connection that she had once worked with one of my sisters. As I stood at that counter, I realized I had been braced to be treated rudely, and I was greeted with kindness.

Here, people “chat,” and that is even how they say it: “I just stopped by for a chat.” On the first day in my new house, a neighbor came by to welcome me; and within my first two weeks here, I have already met six of my neighbors. People are downright friendly.

Food is an important piece of cultural identity, and in my first three months here, I have eaten more Middle Eastern food than I had in 28 years in PA. Polish restaurants are also popular, which suits me just fine. I work near Mexicantown, and there is also a Greektown section in downtown Detroit. Coney Island restaurants are to Detroit what cheesesteaks are to Philadelphia and people have preferences (National versus American).

Other aspects of cultural identity—clothing, music, religion, etc.—are all just a bit different here from eastern Pennsylvania. I find myself noting the differences and thinking of how my identity will change as I adapt to living in the Midwest.