Souvenirs have never really been my thing. Most of them are cheap ‘n’ cheesy and tchotchkes don’t jive with my semi-minimalist nature. However, if you are a foodie and you go to France, then you are must bring back culinary goods. It’s an unwritten law.
French expats and their visiting family members are famous for trying to get foie gras and stinky cheese past US customs. This is best exemplified by a brief scene in the movie 2 Days in New York* where the crazy father hides 30 pounds of sausage in his suitcase and on his person.
Since we took two huge suitcases filled with presents for everyone in the monsieur’s big family, we had a ton of room left over for the trip home. Here’s a list of all the wonderfully tasty things we brought back with us.
French Cheese: We are now the proud owners of two humongous wedges of cheese from the Franche-Comté region (seriously, one of the hunks is at least a foot long!). Morbier is a semi-soft cheese made of cow’s milk that has a dark layer of ash running down the middle while Comté is a hard cheese made from unpasteurized cow’s milk that tastes a little nutty and slightly sweet.
Cancoillotte Cheese: French cheese also comes in jars! Wee! This one is made by cooking metton cheese with milk and butter. It’s creamy and spreadable yet somehow kinda elastic-like. It’s often eaten on toast in the morning or for goûter (a late afternoon snack).
Small-Batch Honey: We were gifted not one, not two, but four jars of honey by my husband’s uncle. He just started working for a guy who owns 400 bee hives and produces 30 tons of honey each year. This stuff is delicious in tea, swirled into plain yogurt, or smothered on a tartine for breakfast.
French Bread: While we’ve found great cheese and wine stateside, we have yet to find an incredible and affordable bakery in our hometown. Arnaud picked up a loaf for less than 4 euros. We ate half during our last dinner in France, and then put the remaining half in our suitcase. It survived the trip home surprising well and has been a great companion to almost everything else listed here.
Saucisson Sec and Pâté de Canard: Swing by any grocery store and pick up some meaty goods. I promise you they will be a million times better than anything you can get here at home. Saucisson sec is a cured, dried sausage that you slice thinly and serve as an appetizer. It’s sometimes paired with slices of bread and cornichon pickles. Pâté de Canard (ground duck meat that is cooked with spices into sublime deliciousness) is also served as an appetizer and is spread on toasted bread.
Eau de Vie: Eau de vie is translated as “water of life” and is a colorless brandy that many French folks make at home by fermenting and double distilling fruit. It’s often sipped at the end of a meal as a digestif and owning a bottle is a badge of pride among our circle of French friends.
* Although it’s currently available on Netflix, Two days in New York isn’t all that great so I wouldn’t recommend watching it. If you really want to see the sausage scene, it is about 25 seconds in on the trailer.
** Putain de merde, I’m now realizing that this blog post could be incriminating! If you work for TSA or customs, please look the other way. Merci beaucoup.