As I was eating some delicious lasagna last weekend, made by a a certain French boy, he mentioned using canned tomatoes because “you don’t buy tomatoes at this time of year.” I looked at him confused and said, “you don’t?” I thought maybe I had misheard something in French. He explained that buying tomatoes out of season means they’ve traveled long distances, been sprayed with more preservatives*, and will cost much more. I thought about whether I’ve ever considered this in America. I mean, of course I know that strawberries are crazy expensive in January but fruit and vegetable seasons hardly guide my grocery shopping in the USA. Here, kids are taught in school not to eat fruits and vegetables out of season.
As I talked about it with Carole, she said, “Oh yes. We teach our children not to eat raspberries in winter.” She thought about it and said, “It’s true that we eat more pasta and rice in winter, but all of the fruits and vegetables in the summer make up for it.”
After a little searching, I found a helpful cheat sheet for fruits and veggie seasons in France. My produce conscious French boyfriend (yes, I said boyfriend!) also explained that if you have a choice, you should never buy fruit imported from out of France. I brushed off his French pride at first until he explained that France’s laws against harsh preservatives are far more stringent than many surrounding countries (you don’t want to know how many are readily used in America that the EU banned years ago…) and if it hasn’t traveled long distances, it’s both fresher and cheaper. Okay, that’s pretty logical. So I stopped buying Spanish clementines and have switched to the ones from Corse (ok, traveling from this French island is probably technically the same distance as Spain so I guess French pride is a little part of it…). I’ll pretend that I taste a difference.
But according to my handy chart, I can buy avocados in December so I guess I’m making guacamole this week!
*This is not a word to mix up in French. I was talking about food traditions and happened to put “preservatives” in a powerpoint for my eighth graders. They cracked up. It’s a false cognate because in French un préservatif = a condom.