Written by Maja Kušćer
One of the biggest challenges for me when studying abroad was to adapt to the French cuisine and to try to compensate for the feeling of missing my dad’s specialities. My mom cooks well, but my dad often prepares incredible specialities that make me feel like I am eating at a restaurant all the time.
French and Croatian cuisine are quite different. People’s tastes and eating habits vary. Croatians usually have a sandwich, cereals or eggs in the morning, while the French don’t eat so much after waking up. For them a chocolate croissant and a cup of coffee are enough. They eat sweet stuff while Croatians don’t like eating chocolate on an empty stomach. For lunch, there are usually warm meals in both countries. Dinner is very important in France, similar to a second lunch, while the Croatians usually skip it and eat light food, yogurts, or small sandwiches.
For me it was difficult to adapt to the sweet taste. The French put more sugar in food than Croatians. Bread, juices, chocolates, and cakes were too sweet for me. Also, I was surprised that in Croatia we have a wider choice of products regarding cookies and vegetables. In Croatia, people prefer to cook at home, so we don’t have a wide choice of precooked and frozen food in the supermarket.
In the beginning, when I was cooking at home, nothing seemed tasty to me because I was missing a mix of spices that is originally produced in Croatia, called Vegeta. It is one of our most exported products to Eastern and Central Europe. However, it wasn’t sold in French supermarkets. Later, I found out from other Croatian friends that you can buy it, along with other Croatian products, in a shop outside of Paris, or in Brussels, in the shops close to the North railway station.
Even though Croatia has an incredible tasty cuisine, it is a small country and not so many people know about it. Therefore, in big cities, you usually can’t find restaurants that offer traditional Croatian food. However, we are becoming more and more popular as a tourist destination and awareness about our food is growing worldwide.
After my first month in France, I finally adapted to French food and spices. In Auchan and Carrefour supermarkets you have a wide choice of food options. If you like seafood, then you’ll be amazed. The prices are affordable, and the choice is huge. Also, milk products are amazing — especially cheese. However, I had difficulties with finding liquid yoghurt. In France, there isn’t any! If you study in Lille, like I was, just cross the border and buy it in Belgium. If you are Croatian and you really miss our food, prepare it yourself, especially those seafood meals. You’ll eat it cheaper than in Croatia. Also, it is a good opportunity to finally learn how to cook everything (in my case, as my dad) and present your masterpieces to your international friends.