Is there one food you can’t cook, taste or smell without thinking of a certain place or time in your lives? For me, it’s peanut butter. In Paris.
I know, it almost sounds sacrilegious to even say that the one food that reminds me of Paris is peanut butter. But, it’s true.
For me, it will forever be peanut butter. In Paris. Skippy creamy peanut butter in a small, 12-oz jar to be exact.
Just one taste, smell or look at it takes me back to picnics in Paris. Quiet dinners in a rented Marais apartment in Paris. Shopping in small food markets in Paris. And, yes, even a fun stop at Thanksgiving, an American grocery store in Paris.
Each memory is absolutely wonderful, utterly delicious, and completely unforgettable. And, each memory includes my family – my husband and my two sons, who were 6 and 4 years old when we spent three weeks in Paris in 2012.
It was our first family trip to abroad. Our first family trip to Paris. And, the first time our sons were away from the comforts - and comfort foods - of home for an extended amount of time.
And, it was perfect.
Before we headed off to the City of Lights, people asked us again and again if we really were going with our kids. When we told them yes, they seemed to look at us with a bit of pity in their eyes. As if we couldn’t truly experience the wonders of Paris with two young kids in tow.
But, we did.
Sure, my husband and I didn’t sit, casually sipping wine and staring into each other’s eyes at Parisian cafes for hours on end. Yes, we didn’t indulge in multi-course gourmet meals served by tuxedo-clad waiters. And, no, we didn’t shop at the local markets and cook up extravagant dinners in our rented apartment.
But, that’s okay.
We did so much more.
We picnicked in Parisian parks almost every day. We became regulars at our neighborhood boulangerie. Our sons got free lollipops whenever we ducked into our local Alimentation Generale. And, we all got to have a say in what we purchased and ate for dinner at our apartment in the evening.
Our sons saw new places, experienced a new culture, tried to speak a new language, played with new friends, and tried new foods.
So, whenever our sons wanted a touch of the familiar, we reached for the small, 12-oz jar of Skippy creamy peanut butter.
Truth be told, it wasn’t easy to find peanut butter in Paris – on a continent where the average European eats less than 1 tablespoon each year (as recently highlighted by BuzzFeed).
When we did find it, it was just the one small, 12-oz. jar of Skippy creamy butter - no other sizes and usually no other brands.
But, that was all we needed.
Some nights, our dinner table would be set with a French baguette, a selection of French cheeses, and a small, 12-oz. jar of Skippy creamy butter.
Since that trip, a French baguette with peanut butter has become one of our favorite things to eat. Period.
So, it’s no surprise, that we sometimes enjoy that same meal for dinner at home in Chicago. We’ve also had the same exact dinner during our time in London last year and even in Tokyo just this past spring. While the bread on our tables may not always be as good our baguettes in Paris, the peanut butter is always perfect - and served out of a small, 12-oz. jar.
Yes, my sons love try new foods when we travel. Yes, they enjoy eating at local restaurants (or pubs or ramen-ya restaurants). And, yes, they don’t live on peanut butter alone.
But, some days, especially when you’re thousands of miles away from home, you just want some peanut butter. And, for us, there’s nothing quite like that Skippy creamy peanut butter in a small, 12-oz. jar.
That’s why I will never be able to look at a small, 12-oz jar of peanut butter the same ever again. And, it's why the unlikely combination of Paris and peanut butter are forever intertwined in my memories of traveling with my family - there any other destinations.
For me, nothing has ever tasted as good as peanut butter in Paris.
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