They also use the freshest, best ingredients. American meat is outlawed here and has been for 30 years - why? Because hormones and additives are not allowed here. Neither are GMOs (genetically modified organisms; these are fruits and vegetables that have been chemically altered to produce larger or more "genetically favorable" results, such as thinner skins or frost-resistance); in America, many of our foods may be "organic" (farmed without the use of pesticides) but their seeds are genetically modified, so who knows what their chemicals are doing to us internally?
I hadn't given it too much thought in the US, just tend to try to buy organic, but here's what happened when my kids begged us to buy strawberries in the supermarche on the first day: the kids said, "Mom, why are the strawberries so little?" I shrugged but we bought them anyway, hoping they'd be okay. When they bit into the berries, they said, "They taste different." I grabbed one, saying, "Is it bad?"
"No, they're amazing!" The kids had red juice oozing from their mouths and the entire pound of berries was finished before we'd walked the single block back to the hotel.
What's the difference? Instead of being "meaty" and fleshy with a "strawberry" flavor like what we're used to, these berries were like perfumed gem-like candies, tasting like tiny bursts of juice. They don't even taste like strawberries... it's like a cross between a raspberry and a sweet plum... or a just-picked cherry... It's delightful. Not created for mass-consumption, just a revelation of berry sweetness.But the entire city is filled with stands like this, for every little thing. Antoinette (our tour guide) took us to a tiny block that has thrice-weekly produce markets and is surrounded by brick-and-mortar shops; the butcher, the baker, the candle-stick maker... Seriously. There was a fish monger, then a cheese store, then a butcher, then a bakery, then a gourmet sundry store... It was intense, this focus on the quality (not the quantity) of the food.
For an American with just a few days here, it is overwhelming. I want to try EVERYTHING. But it is enough to know that it's here and it has already changed my perspective on food. It makes me want to grow my own food and make everything fresh; a Sisiphyan feat for an American mom with kids who have typically American palates, but I am intrigued. If they can love strawberries like that and can appreciate the difference in the quality of the bread and butter we're eating, then maybe they can learn to want to eat differently. It's a start, anyway.
I only wish I had my running shoes so that I could (maybe) counteract my new love affair with food. I can now appreciate Julia Child's love for French cooking.