It must be hard to believe, but living in France, there are a handful of foods I miss from America.
Sure, the cheese here is unparalleled, and it’s nigh impossible to find a bad loaf of bread. Yes, the cold cuts aisle in most supermarkets is home to some truly delicious charcuterie, and the wine aisle has bottles that retail for $20 in America at 3 euro a pop.
But there are still things I miss.
Hot sauce, for instance. Here, we can get tiny bottles of Tabasco… and that’s pretty much it. If you’re at an Asian market, you’ll find sambal and sriracha; the Peruvian market downstairs from my old house even had Valentina. But the expanse of different hot sauces – some slightly sweet, some vinegary – that you find at home is nowhere to be found. (And my all-time fave, Frank’s Red Hot, is only sold at the American grocery store at an exorbitant price.)
Porridge is another. You can get Quaker instant oats here, but if you want real Irish or Scottish oatmeal, you’d be hard-pressed to find it. I finally located a bag at the English grocery store at République, but it wasn’t nearly as good as the stuff you’ll find on any supermarket shelf back home.
Big Red gum, canned black beans, poblano peppers (or really, any chile aside from habanero or corne de boeuf)… yes, the list goes on and on. But there are only a handful that make the Country Boy and me keep some extra space in our bags each time we return to the States, and they are as follows:
1. Kraft Macaroni and Cheese (especially when the pasta is in fun shapes)
2. Peanut Butter M&Ms (we brought back 18 medium bags and two “party size” bags that TCB calls “me-sized”
I know what you’re thinking. After all, France is a country that is nothing if not devoted to porc. They eat pork chops the way we eat chicken; ham the way we eat turkey. They even have an expression regarding how much they love pork: Tout est bon dans le cochon – Everything in a pig is good.
But I’m sorry, France. Your bacon is not up to snuff.
It used to be that you couldn’t find bacon at all, in France. I could find lardons, little matchsticks of smoked pork belly, and I could ask my butcher to cut me slices of lard fumé behind the counter, but it was never the same; it never cooked up quite as crispy nor rendered enough delicious cooking fat. These days, you can actually buy packs of bacon in the supermarket, containing eight slices (seriously? eight?) that are far too thin and – yeah – still not fatty enough.
So every time we return to the States, we stock up on bacon and carry it back in our suitcases. We freeze the lot, and then whenever we feel we are particularly deserving of a treat, we defrost a pound and cook it up.
Since bacon is such a rarity, then, I like to let it shine: usually we just have it with pancakes, or if we’re feeling fancy, in BLTs. However, when we returned from our most recent American voyage, I decided to add some to a big chopped salad – a BLT salad, if you will – with avocado and seared salmon. It’s a little bit over-the-top, but isn’t that what being American is all about?
BLT Salad with Salmon
1 egg yolk
1 teaspoon mustard
1 tablespoon cider vinegar
1/3 cup vegetable oil
water, as needed
salt and pepper
3 heads little gem lettuce, thinly sliced
1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved or quartered
1 avocado, sliced
1/2 red onion, thinly sliced
3/4 pound bacon, cooked crisp, fat reserved
2 pieces salmon
salt and pepper
In the bottom of a large salad bowl, whisk the egg yolk and the mustard together. Add the vinegar and whisk well to combine. Drizzle in the oil bit by bit, whisking constantly, to emulsify the ingredients together into a mayonnaise. Drizzle in water as needed to give the dressing the consistency of a Caesar dressing. Season with salt and pepper.
Add the lettuce, tomato, avocado, and onion to the bowl. Chop the bacon coarsely, and add it. Toss everything to combine.
Heat about a teaspoon of the reserved bacon fat in a skillet over medium-high heat. Season the salmon with salt and pepper and cook, flesh-side down, for four minutes. Turn over and cook for an additional three minutes, then cut the heat, remove the pan from the stove, and allow to sit for an additional two to three minutes. Serve the salad topped with salmon.