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While making dinner last night I realized as I scooped a spoon full of duck lard out of an old foie gras jar that since I moved to France five years ago, I have experienced so many parts of life for the very first time. Take, for instance, this lard idea. It may seem small and insignificant alone, but coupled with the tons of like experiences to which French culture has opened my eyes, I might now be unrecognizable to those who knew me before I made the big move.

The irony thickens when we consider the fact that I was a vegetarian, hold that, a vegan, for seven years before making the big life change. Not directly before, mind you, but going from vegan to French gourmand in a life time much less in under a decade is quite the turnabout.

I couldn’t quite imagine being a vegan in France. I am sure there are plenty, and I’m sure they find way to arrange their recipes to suit their taste buds and their morals/health; I remember the strategies well. I recently stumbled upon a blogger who offered a vegetarian Boeuf Bourgonion. Being a huge fan of this particular dish the traditional way, I’m curious to know how it turned out. And then I laugh to myself thinking about the consequences of serving it to my in-laws. Would they know the difference? I’d be willing to bet pretty hefty that they would. I’d get an “Ohhh-la-la only in America” response and then my father-in-law would ask for the cheese tray.

I give vegetarians credit, though. (My mother and sister are still vegetarian.) It is not easy to constantly calculate iron and calcium in-take and balancing protein counts. And bravo for tackling French cuisine!

Now back to that list of firsts I could have never imagined doing before I moved to France.

1. Scooping homemade left-over lard into dinner.

2. Making Foie Gras, even still eating or thinking about Foie Gras.

3. Eating Tartar, raw hamburger meat mixed with spices and a raw egg. (Can I count the ways this would never have happened in my former life!)

4. Seeing a dead, skinned rabbit, eyeballs and all, hanging from a market stall and not immediately losing my lunch.

5. Watching a loved one eat an animal’s heart. Indeed, I could not being myself to try this traditional French delicacy. Alas, I tell my husband there has to be something to keep me going as the years roll on. (I haven’t been able to eat horse meat either).

6. Walking into a public bathroom and not going bright tomato red to see a man pulling up his fly as he leaves the stall – French co-ed public bathrooms. And on that note, using a toilet with no seat!

7. When going to renew my driver’s license, instinctively knowing I’ll need to take a day’s worth of work with me. Bureaucracy is a French word for a reason!

8. Sitting down to dinner at night to a bottle of wine and a tablecloth. And eating yogurt (nature, no sugar, no fruit) for dessert, by choice.

9. Not being weirded out by kissing a prefect stranger on the cheek, twice.

10. Not thinking twice when blackness befalls me in a public toilet, my hand automatically feeling around the wall for the light indicator.

11. Keeping my milk and eggs in the cupboard and not the fridge.

It is strange what we get used to, how a place can change us. I suspect it means I’m still growing and still learning. What’s that old adage: Once you stop learning, you’re dead.

Hear, hear!