Le Foodist Paris Cooking Class

Why does Food Taste Different Around the World?

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Imagine you've been traveling through Asia for two weeks. You've sampled all kinds of local cuisine from Pad Thai to Pho, but on this particular day, all you want is greasy, cheesy pizza. You find a restaurant that serves Western fare and order a Margherita pizza, but to your dismay, it's nothing like you expected - the sauce is different, the crust is cracker-like, and there's not nearly enough cheese. What gives?

When you travel, you will quickly find that food simply tastes different in other countries due to a wide variety of factors. Scientifically speaking, much of these preferences come from what people eat while growing up, and they develop a perception of what is "normal." A number of cultural and environmental factors also influence cuisine by making certain ingredients and dishes more available or desirable. Cooking methods also differ from place to place, and dishes will acquire different flavors when cooked on an electric grill as opposed to a charcoal one. Therefore, even if you order a dish from home, it won't be exactly the same because locals prefer different spices, ingredients, and flavors.

why does food taste different in other countries

The Science Behind Taste Preferences

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Genealogy and palate formation heavily impact a country's preferred cuisine. Across the world, people's bodies have adapted to different gastronomical palates and cuisine choices, and we become programmed to perceive particular flavors and textures as normal. 

The Role of Genetics

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Our genetic makeup contributes largely to our culinary preferences. Evidence indicates that our genetic makeup influences the composition of taste receptors on our tongues, which directly impacts our preferences. We have varying amounts of receptors for basic flavors like sweet, salty, bitter, sour, and umami, and each individual's receptor composition varies depending on their DNA. Therefore, a person who hails from one part of the world may be more sensitive to particular tastes than others from different regions.

Consumption habits can also influence genetic makeup over time. In many parts of Asia, for example, dairy is not a major dietary component, so over time, that region developed higher rates of lactose intolerance. Similarly, research on American obesity has found that genetics can impact a person's salt and fat intake.

Palate Formation

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A person generally forms their culinary palate based on the tastes that surround them from the womb through early childhood. Fetuses and breastfed children essentially eat what their mothers eat, so they develop early inclinations toward certain flavors common in their mothers' diets. Once we can eat on our own, we quickly develop conceptions of quality cuisine based on how we are taught to enjoy and consume particular foods.

Therefore, these cultural differences are not only a matter of ingredient availability but also ingredient use. Vanilla, for example, is often associated with sweets in America or Europe, but in Asia, the spice is generally used in more savory dishes. Additionally, notions of "pairing" ingredients with similar flavors are often distinctly Western; many cultures combine flavors differently or avoid combining similar flavors altogether, so dishes that seem delicious to an American may disgust a Sri Lankan or Nigerian and vice versa.

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Environment and Culture

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Different recipes and styles of cooking developed due to environmental and cultural factors. Environments influence ingredient availability and effective cooking methods, and cultural traditions dictate perceptions of quality cuisine.

Environmental Influences

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Environmental factors foremost impact ingredients available in a particular region, which directly affects the composition of traditional dishes. In the US, for example, mass production of corn has led to widespread use of high fructose corn syrup for flavor, which is uncommon throughout the rest of the world. Seafood's role in cuisine composition is also a matter of availability; areas with large coastlines that harbor plentiful marine life will feature seafood in dishes more often than those that are landlocked.

The environment also impacts taste in more complex ways. States in hotter parts of the world, for example, tend to have spicier national cuisines because spice helps mitigate environmental heat by protecting from microbes and parasites associated with meat spoilage, causing sweat that cools consumers off, and stimulating appetite as the heat suppresses it.

Cultural Conceptions

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"Good food" is often a cultural construction. Various cultures value different aspects of food, such as texture or sweetness. Sea cucumber exemplifies this phenomenon. In China, it is an expensive delicacy, but most Westerners consider it to be bland and rubbery. This dissonance occurs because Western cultures generally prefer flavorful dishes with simple textures, but Chinese cuisine values textural intricacies. Therefore, to a Chinese person, a sea cucumber has a rich, delightful "mouthfeel" whereas a French person thinks they've eaten flavorless rubber.

Different cultural perceptions of what constitutes a healthy diet also impact cuisine. Though fruits and dairy are often considered an essential component of a healthy diet in the West, Japan places them on the lowest rung of their dietary hierarchy. Therefore, in Japan, a healthy meal would often consist of grains, vegetables, and proteins, but in the US, fruit and yogurt are considered a common healthy snack. Safety issues also impact these health perceptions. A "raw" diet that consists of primarily uncooked goods is all the rage in the West, but in developing regions with lower water quality and handling standards, thoroughly cooking most meals is essential.

Cultural traditions and conceptions of politeness also affect the way food is prepared and eaten, which often impacts the food itself. In many parts of India, tradition dictates that it is polite to eat with your hands because your fingers and thumb come together to form a "Mudra" - a gesture of great spiritual value - while eating. Therefore, many traditional Indian dishes, like Samosas, are explicitly designed to be eaten by hand. Similarly, Western foods are made to be eaten with a knife and fork, and many East Asian dishes are designed for chopsticks. In sum, these small genetic, environmental, and cultural conditions blend to create a range of diverse flavors across the globe.

For more information, please refer to the following pages:

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More About Our Baguettes Classes

Getting a bit technical during our Baguette Class in Paris

The French baguette, actually probably better known as the Parisian baguette has beome a true symbol of French popular gastronomy. A true icon of French life even - look around and you will see the Parisians strolling back home with their baguettes under their arm. But if you are French why would you learn how to do this? You can buy a baguette at any corner of Paris for about one Euro a piece.  But in our Baguette Class in Paris  you will learn how do this from scratch. It is somewhat technical, but also full of tips and tricks. But when you leave, it will have not secret left for you. From the original mix to the famous "scarification" through adding water to your oven through baking, you will see and do it all.

Learning more during your Baguette class in Paris: Croque Monsieur Bread and Brioche

This class is like all our other baking or cooking classes: totally hands-on. So you get to practice from beginning to end - and to taste at the end. But not only will you learn how to make Baguette, but you will also learn to make two more types of bread: the French Croque Monsieur bread. The basis for the classic French bistrot appetizer. And in your Baguette class in Paris you will also learn how to make your own Brioche. Probably the most indulgent bread you will find in France - if not the lightest ...

And you might learn some history during your Baguette Class in Paris

While you will learn the techniques to create - and get to taste - three classic types of French breads, you will also learn some of the stories on the origin of the baguette. Just beware it is still being quite hotly debated. What is for sure though is that the Baguette is absolutely part of today Parisian's life. A classic you will be able to take back home with you.

More About Our Wine and Cheese Lunch in Paris

Cheese and Wine in Paris

The pleasures we can derive from French cuisine can seem endless.  However two of the best known and loved French gastronomic heroes are French cheese and wine. Whether we talk about a Brie which actually comes from very close to Paris, to a creamy Camembert from Normandy, or a Comté from the Alps, French cheese has a delight for all palates. And of course, French wines are even better known whether from Bordeaux great wines or Burgundy sophisticated whites – all of which enthral wine lovers.  Well, at our course on cheese and wine in Paris you will come to appreciate that although each is delicious on its own, properly matched cheese and wine together can make the experience of each even more enjoyable and an absolute delight.

How to pair French cheese and wine

Because not all pairings are actually what people expect, at Le Foodist we have decided to call these experiences 'Daring Pairings'. Maybe because we like to step out of the ordinary to challenge our taste buds, but really all we try to do is give you the perfect match fo cheese and wine in Paris.  So not only will you learn how to select the best wine to go with your cheese, but you will also learn what are the big cheese families in France – there are actually only five, and this is one of the keys to great pairing. In discovering all these pairings of cheese with wine you will be convinced that indeed two things together can be better than the sum of their parts.

It is important to have fun with pairing cheese and wine in Paris

Beyond the tastings though, we have found that the best way to help our clients remember and re-use their experience is to vary the way to approach both wine and cheese.  That is why during our courses on cheese and wine in Paris we share sensory games and many an anecdote to bring the produce to life in your mind as well as on your palate. Overall we will feature four excellent wines, one Champagne and demonstrate to you how best each combines with cheese, letting your taste guide you along with our teaching.

Understanding cheese and wine pairing while in Paris

While for many top Parisian wine stores and restaurant wine lists can be confusing and even intimidating, we believe that after our lunch learning how to pair cheese and wine in Paris, you will feel much more comfortable navigating all of those.  And we sincerely hope your knowledge will help you unlock a door to a whole new world of enjoyment of French wine and cheese pairing.  At every step of the way our sommelier will also share unique tips and tricks to understand wines better and how culture and wine are so related in France; hopefully enriching your own experience as well.

And they do not have to do with what you will find in those markets. They have to do with when you can go shopping there. Open Air markets are only open in the morning. Typically from 8:30 am to 1:30 pm. And they are not open every day. As a matter of fact for the vast majority they are open either open every other day (Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday or Wednesday, Friday, Sunday), or sometimes only twice a week. 

This is the case of the Bastille Market (Metro Bastille and Metro Bréguet Sabin )which is open only on Thursday and Sunday morning. We like to send people there because it is a very big market with over one hundred vendors. And it has a nice stand of Crêperie in the middle. Here you get a video of a lady preparing a crêpe there; and you can get that crêpe for only 3 Euros!
There is only one Open Air market open every day of the week, it is called Marché Aligre (Metro Ledru Rollin or Metro Faidherbe Chaligny) which happens on the eponymous street. It is an interesting market because you find all kinds of quality in that market – the good, the bad and the ugly. There is also a nice covered market in the middle of it called Marché Beauveau – sometimes called Marché Beauveau Aligre. On the contrary, Covered Markets are open every day, and not just in the morning, but also in the late afternoon. Typically from 4:30 pm to 8:00 pm.

We are blessed with two markets close to where Le Foodist is located, so we can walk to a market every morning – sometimes it is the Maubert market, and sometimes it is the Monge market. Both nice with their own specififies. Last but not least, none of these markets is open on Monday. Do not sign-up for a Market Tour on Monday, you might never see that money again …

Choosing Ingredients in Paris

While all markets are different, they also have some things in common. First they work on specific schedules as explained before. But also you will find always at a minimum the following vendors: a Maraîcher – this is the name we give to people selling fruits and vegetables, a butcher, a fishmonger, a cheesemonger and a baker. Normally you will find several of each, with different levels of quality, organic or non-organic, local or not local (but mostly not local unfortunately).
And we explain how to recognize each of those of course during our Market Visits and Cooking Classes in Paris. But choosing ingredients can be daunting at first, because of the variety that is on display. A typical fishmonger will carry 20 different types of fishes, and as many shrimp and shelf fish varieties. A good cheese monger will easily carry up to 100 different types of cheese and obviously you could get over 100 different cuts of meat at a butcher (from the type of meat to the cut itself). And a normal Maraicher will carry between 50 and 100 fruits and vegetables as well.
This is what makes these markets so exciting – the variety of products, the beauty of their display, and the exchange you can have with most of the vendors. We give you tips though on how to make sure that exchange with the vendors go well – a few magic words, and everything will be fine!

Cooking in Paris

Obviously going to markets is nice, but actually knowing that you are going to cook what you find there is even more exciting. It is not uncommon for Parisians to buy a little bit too much food because they get so excited at the idea of cooking it all! But as most of us have hardly any space where we live, that can limit the enthusiasm sometimes. Because of the lack of space, Cooking in Paris can be quite different from cooking in the rest of France. And there are also dishes that are typically associated with regions which the Parisian will not cook at home – but taste when they visit friends or families in the various regions of France. However our kitchen has plenty of space, so we can cook traditional French dishes without a problem – whether they come from Paris or any region. And the most important part for us is to ensure that we share techniques much more than just recipes. As a matter of fact, we love to share a bit of the science behind what we do so people can better remember the “what” by understanding the “why”.

Sharing Stories

In November 2010, some experts from the UN cultural organisation, decided tha France’s multi-course gastronomic meal, with its rites and its presentation, fulfilled the conditions for featuring on the “world intangible list” of the UNESCO.
In this list you can find all kinds of cultural practices, including Mexico Day of the Dead festival for example. Importantly this is not suggesting French cuisine is better than other cuisines (even though we the French tend to believe that …). It is only saying that the gastronomic meal and what it entails is a very vivid cultural practice which people in France partake into on a very regular basis. That is why the same experts indicated that the French gastronomic meal is a “social custom aimed at celebrating the most important moments in the lives of individuals and groups”. And in that social custom, there are many parts: the attention we pay to the way we choose ingredients, how we pair wine with food, how many dishes we will present to our guests, how we lay the table, etc… But one big part of the cultural practice is that commensality (the fact of sharing the food) is always accompanied by sharing stories about …. Well, you would have guessed it, Food of course!
To us it is THE perfect example of how Food and Culture come together – actually we decide to share food is a considered a cultural practice. I would argue that it is true of all countries, regions, etc… As the way we relate to Food is such a big part of anybody’s identity. But as a result and to make sure you have the most genuine experience of French culture, after the a coking class in Paris at Le Foodist, you will share a gastronomic meal at a common table with your Chef and fellow participants to the class.

French Wine and Food Pairing

As mentioned above, one of the big cultural practices in France is choosing how to pair Wine and Food in general and Wine and Cheese in particular. We actually have a class which focuses specifically on this. As it is so important though, we always make sure we share white and red wines during our meals, chosen to pair well in our opinion with the food we cook. And being at the table together is a good opportunity to discuss about wine as well, with concepts such as “terroir” (to simplify, terroir means “what you do depends on where you are”) which are essential to grasp the way the French think about Food.
And all this will always go with a cheering “Santé” – which quite simply means, to your good health!

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