I was amazed and perhaps a little envious when I learned the niblings are well-versed in international cuisine. I grew up eating ‘Midwest” meals; I never had anything more exotic than Chinese take out* until I went to college. The nieces and nephews, sophistos that they are, eat all sorts of things. I was on the phone with Princess-Goddess the other day when she told me the dishes she and her classmates are going to try to make this autumn. She listed things from Mexico, Thailand, Italy, China, and (of all things!) Ethiopia.** I asked her if anyone was going to make anything French. She paused as if I just said a nonsense word and asked me what’s that. I explained France has a cuisine of its own and once upon a time French cooking was all the rage, the ‘top’ as it were. I even tried to describe coq au vin. She is a good person and I could hear her squirming on the other end of the phone trying to find some nice way to say sooner she’d eat rats at Tewkesbury.

It illustrates a point. Around where I live are restaurants of almost every type of cuisine except French. I guess that sort of food isn’t in favor anymore. Not only isn’t it ate but it’s forgotten. Around these parts, ‘Pan-pacific” foods – along with Mexican – are what people like. Spicy, not savory, is the taste. A few years ago I asked and got at Christmas a copy of Julia Child’s seminal cookbook. I am ashamed to admit I’ve never used it. It sits on the shelf, unopened. The dishes look daunting, complicated and time-consuming and frankly none too exciting. Then there is the matter of getting the ingredients. Indian and Mexican cooking calls for some oddities not found on the shelves at Uncle Albertsons but there are many fine local stores that sell such.

After said telephone call I went on line and searched for “French restaurants in Phoenix”. There are some, it turns out. Curiously, they are all have $$$-$$$$ ratings on TripAdvisor, suggesting French cooking is expensive and/or there is no such thing as a family-owned hole-in-the-wall place serving this sort. More curious: at 7PM on Saturday a few were closed. The top one is ‘Vincents’, which boasts ‘serving fine french cuisine for 35 years’. I hoped to find French classic dishes on the menu but no such luck. What came up is ‘duck tamale with anaheim chile and raisins’ and ‘smoked salmon quesadilla with horseradish cream’ – I don’t remember these in Ms. Child’s cookbook.

It seems I must travel to France if I am ever going to experience proper French food. I wonder if I am hankering for something that doesn’t anymore exist, even in France. For all I know they’ve given up on intricate elegant savory dishes for pad thai and the like. Even if I should find a restaurant that serves soufflés and ratatouille I would probably be kicked out when I ask for hot sauce. Oh the embarrassment.

Do you have a French restaurant near you?

Do you ever make French cuisine?

*Cantonese style, with no sense of ‘heat’ to it. Oh the horror.

**In Ann Arbor MI there is an Ethiopian place where they serve the food on a large thin wheel of bread. You tear off bread bits to use as pinchers to pick up the food. Jolly good fun and oh so tasty.