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Are the French REALLY snobs when it comes to food and culture?

Liike many young ladies across the country, I consider myself a Francophile. I took French lessons in high school, had a poster of the Eiffel Tower in my bedroom, and dreamt of the day when I would stroll hand in hand with a hunky French man down the Champs Elysee.

Dinner with my roommate Alexis outside of the Paris Opera House. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO / Tess Vella-Collette

Then I had my own real life love affair with France during a summer abroad in college. I lived in a tiny apartment in Paris, I sipped espressos in cafes, and while I didn’t find any particularly hunky men, I did stroll along the gorgeous cobblestone streets, admiring the architecture. 

My French neighbor Francoise, who took me around Paris on his motorcycle. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO / Tess Vella-Collette

When I returned home to Dayton I was a full-blown French believer. Friends and family would ask me about my trip and then interject their own experience: “Aren’t the French so snotty?” “They have such bad attitudes, how could you stand it?” I was immediately defensive. How dare they speak ill of my favorite country and favorite people? Of course, I thought the French, and all things French were pure perfection, but that snotty French cliche must hold some bearing, otherwise it wouldn’t be such a well-known stereotype. So I’ve made it a bit of my life’s mission to dissect French food and customs to figure out if they are, indeed, snobs.

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In the restaurant where I work, I spend most of my time behind the bar serving martinis and pouring wine. In a strictly professional capacity, I’ve consumed my fair share of wine and I think that the French have it right here. Not to knock California, but I find French wine much richer, rounder, and brighter than wines from other “New World” regions. I’m not a gal who enjoys all the oak in a California Chardonnay, but loves the crisp, dry, apple flavors in a French Chardonnay. I’d choose a rich, bold Bordeaux over a tannic California Cab any old day. Want to try some delicious French wines yourself? Ask the experts at Arrow Wine to give you a tour of France in a glass.

Taken in Giverny on the "Monet" bridges. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO / Tess Vella-Collette

When I’m not working behind the bar, I help out a bit in the back of house, or in the kitchen. One day I asked Chef if I could help him out with anything, and he said “yeah, can you finish up the chicken liver mousse?” Ummm...sure.

I was a little out of my element, but tried to keep a cool exterior as I prepared a classic French dish. Basically you put roasted chicken livers, sherry, shallots, apples and an herb blend in a food processor, and strain it through a chinois until it’s a smooth consistency. It was about this time that I felt like I was in the middle of open heart surgery. No one should have to see this, and more than that, who the hell would want to eat this? But then I added the whipped cream. I folded it all together until it was lighter than air. Chicken liver mousse is absolutely heavenly, whipped to perfection, rich and creamy. It’s truly a dish that only the French could be responsible for. It’ll clog your arteries, but you’ll look so chic while you do it.

Okay, so maybe the French are snobs. But c’mon, these are the people who invented mousse, and souffles, and French fries, and French kissing. So if they are snobs, I say let them be, because I certainly wouldn’t want to live in a world without French fries, chocolate-y desserts and smooches.

Paris American Academy, where Vella-Collette attended school. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO / Tess Vella-Collette

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Tess is a restaurant professional, home-baker and downtown Dayton dweller. When she's not mixing drinks for restaurant patrons, she's drinking champagne, buying shoes, or writing her blog, Ciao Vella. You can read about her home recipes, party planning tips, and more at www.CiaoVellaBlog.com.

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