I just got back from two weeks in Paris, and while intellectually I knew the French breed vegetables for taste where Americans breed for size, color, and ship-ability, that two weeks really brought the extent of the difference home. While I was there I wasn't eating haute cuisine. I was eating in working class cafes and modest brasseries and there are so many things I wish I could change in US food culture. In the cafes, a wider choice of meats routinely appeared on the menu. For example, duck and lamb rarely appear on a US diner or "regular" restaurant menu, but they were always choices in the cafes/brasseries. My husband had the best Duck Magret of his life in an unassuming Montmartre cafe.
The other revelation was the vegetables. Note to America: lettuce is not a texture; it has flavor! All of the vegetables-- even the out of season tomatoes-- had flavor. I looked forward to vegetables in a way I never did at home. Is there any way of achieving this in the US? Is it possible, or is the status quo too entrenched?
A word about airline food: The food on the Delta flight out was horrendous, extremely salty, awful, inedible. The food on the Air France flight back actually tasted like food; a nicely sauced pasta and the veggies tasted fresh. This tells me that airline food doesn't have to be awful. So why is it so terrible?
And although McDonald's exists in the heavily-touristed areas of Paris, fast food is actually pretty hard to find in Paris as a whole, which I think is a great thing. Is there any hope for the US food producing industries to change their ways, or will we always be stuck with the mediocre national food culture?