Food has definitely been a recurring topic on this blog, but this post is extra special to me.
I had the unexpected opportunity to independently travel outside of England and visit Marseille, France. It was upon recommendation of my dad who said “the food there is great!” I quickly discovered that, as per usual, he was right. The surprise was learning that the food came with enormous amounts of hospitality.
Here are 3 stories about food that made France feel like home.
The first happened the first morning in Keaton and my Airbnb. It was my first Airbnb experience, and I was a bit nervous about getting to know the hosts. Almost all of my worries disappeared as I walked into the living room to find the sweetest breakfast laid out for us. I’m not sure if this is something every host does, but it absolutely made my day. For me, it was a sign of how friendly and welcoming this trip would be.
The second happened as Keaton and I wandered around the area, through an ally. I don’t even remember where we were going, but I stopped to look into a building that I hoped was an African restaurant. I knew Marseille had a large population of North Africans, and was extremely excited to be near a culture that reminded me of home. As I peered into the glass front door, I heard French being spoken to me. I turned to meet the puzzled, but friendly gaze of a quite fashionable black woman. She continued to speak in French and eventually my brain started working again. “Désolé, Je suis Américaine” I said. She went “ooohhhh” and smiled. “What are you looking for?” I sighed relief and pointed behind me, “African restaurant?”
Long story short, this very friendly woman, who’s name I did not get, turned in her tracks to lead us to “the best place!” Yes, this was a bit risky of us… following a complete stranger, but she seemed really, really nice!
We walked to a nearby Caribbean restaurant called Kaz Kreol, and she opened the door and spoke in French, smiling and pointing to us. I picked apart some words and guessed she said “I brought you some Americans.”
The 3 course meal was delicious, and we so appreciated how friendly and willing everyone in the restaurant was to help us. Although Caribbean food is similar to African food, it wasn’t quite what I was looking for. This leads us to the third story.
At this point of our stay, I could almost taste the Benachin in my dreams. I decided it was time to type African Restaurant into google maps, and hope for the best. I’ll never forget the amazing feeling of seeing 20+ nearby locations pop up. Senegalese food in walking distance? What a dream!
We chose a restaurant called Mame Diarra that specialized in Senegalese dishes. (West Africa represent !!) This specific experience will always be one I cherish. After sitting down, I asked “Parlez-vous Anglais?” to which our waiter smiled, holding up a finger. He went back to the kitchen and a few minutes later, a woman came to our table. She said “Sorry about that. I know some English. Only a little, I’m actually from Gambia.” My jaw dropped as I mumbled in amazement, “me too!!” Her smile widened as I chose items from the menu in the most comfortable and excited way I’d ever done since leaving Michigan.
Marseille was an amazing experience filled with so much unique culture. While being guided by your stomach in a foreign place may seem a bit precarious, this trip was well worth it.