All’s Well on a Full Stomach

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Grace Heaton
May 4, 2024

One of the many reasons I chose to study abroad in Nantes was because of the French Gastronomy course offered. Not only did the curriculum sound very interesting, but the syllabus indicated that there would be excursions to various important food destinations in the city. I was sold.

The course had a limit of 15 people, so when registration opened back in November 2023, I quickly jumped on as soon as it opened and registered for the class. I do not regret that decision in the slightest.

This semester, IES Abroad Nantes employed a new professor to teach the class, a trained pastry chef. Not only was she gifted in all things patisserie and French cuisine in general, but Mme Plouchart had a lot of interesting information to share with us.

On the first day of class, we walked in timidly to find a homemade Galette des Rois waiting for us to accompany all the delicious information to come. For those who aren’t familiar with this delicious dessert, a Galette des Rois is a cake made of puff pastry and frangipane (an almond paste). It's famous during the first month of the year during the celebration of Épiphanie, and is sold in practically every boulangerie and grocery store across France. The tradition of this cake is that there is a little trinket, also called a fève, hidden inside the layers of puff pastry. The children in the family must hide under the table while the cake is being cut so that they don’t see where the fève is. Whoever gets the fève in their slice of cake gets to wear the crown and be king or queen for the day.

This Galette des Rois is not the only delicious treat we got to sample in class. Practically every time we had this course, there was a fun treat from different regions of France to try. Some classes, there was even more than one! My favorite samplings of French cuisine and patisserie were the following: flan, croissants, pain au levain, fromage frais, deconstructed taste au citron, and more!

This course was not entirely treats, though. There was a lot of information to digest. We began by covering a broad overview the history of French gastronomy, back to the time of the homosapiens all the way up to present. We also learned about savior-vivre à la française, and regional specialties from throughout France.

My favorite aspect of the course was the hands-on pedagogical style that Mme Plouchart employed. We took excursions to several unique places around Nantes, including the renowned brasserie, La Cigale, with its scrumptious breakfast and art nouveau interior and a famous patisserie called RUN. Additionally, each student in the class got to attend a dinner at a Michelin starred restaurant. My friends and I went to Lulu Rouget with Mme Plouchart, an incredible take on Marseillaise cuisine with local Loire-Atlantique products and specialties. I struggled with the octopus in that meal as a picky eater, but everything else was absolutely delicious.

Another informative and engaging pedological experience that  we had was a dinner cooked by Mme Plouchart where Nantais specialties were served. We enjoyed duck with a muscadet sauce, a gateâu nantais, and more. A wine specialist, also known as a caviste, came to this dinner and taught us everything there is to know about the famous wine of the region, muscadet.

Overall, this course was my favorite of the semester. I learned so much from all of the hands-on experiences, and I will be bringing back all of the knowledge with me to incorporate into my weekly meal rotations and how to live more à la française.

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Grace Heaton

Hi! My name is Grace Heaton. I am thrilled to be studying abroad in Nantes in Spring 2024. I am a junior at Duquesne in Pittsburgh, PA studying Marketing, French, and German. I enjoy traveling, learning languages, and adventuring with friends.

Home University:
Duquesne University
Portland, OR
French Language
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