When I first arrived in Rennes, I was expecting to find the classic french food that the media glorifies: crepes, ratatouille, and croissants for every meal. However, I was pleasantly delighted to find that Bretagne has a food culture of its own. From the first day I arrived, I have been met with some amazing meals, thanks to the fact that my host parents are fabulous cooks! My first night in Rennes we enjoyed galettes- a signature dish of Bretagne consisting of a savory buckwheat crepe, typically stuffed with eggs, cheese, sauteed onion, and sometimes sausage. This meal was accompanied by cidre, an alcoholic beverage made of fermented apple juice (also a specialty of Bretagne).
Getting into the routine of things, I quickly realized the importance of butter in the food culture here in Bretagne. The easiest way I like to explain it, is that butter here is more like a condiment, rather than an ingredient. Let me clarify: I am not complaining! This “beurre demi-sel” is the most delicious, salty butter I have ever tasted, and I don’t mind smearing it on baguette at every chance I get. The caramel in Bretagne is just as special, because it’s made with this special salty butter, making it the perfect combination of salty and sweet, which goes perfectly inside of a crepe. Which is a great segway! Many people don’t actually know that crepes originated in the Bretagne region of France, so you will find them just about everywhere in Rennes. Sometimes at my homestay, I’m lucky enough to have 3 or 4 crepes for dinner, stuffed with a variety of fillings from fruit confiture, to lemon and sugar, and finally that salty-sweet caramel I mentioned earlier. I truly do get spoiled at home.
Now don’t get me wrong, I definitely have not enjoyed everything I’ve eaten here in Rennes, but that is part of the learning experience that comes with living at a home stay! There are certainly foods that I’ve never even seen before, but I always give them a fair shot and taste them. My host family never gets offended if I don’t like what’s offered, because they’re there to provide for you and want you to be happy as well. Don’t pretend to like something served to you if you don’t like it, or you will most likely be served it again! Be vocal about your likes and dislikes, so that your meal experiences can be more enjoyable.
Outside of the homestay, Rennes has a surprisingly large and diverse food scene. From the enormous outdoor farmers market every Saturday (marché des lices) to the endless options of ethnic foods, you’ll never be bored by the options! At the marché des lices, I enjoy crepes with nutella for .80€, and at lunch hour during the week I typically go for mediterannean or thai food, but the possibilities are endless. I urge anyone who visits this area to go for the regional specialties like the galettes I described earlier, or a kouign amann, which is a more buttery, sweeter, dessert version of a croissant, but don’t be afraid to explore all of the options the city has to offer!
For now, I am taking in every moment and every dish I eat, because I know that this specialized gastronomy doesn’t exist in the US! A great tip I have for anyone who plans on staying with a family is to help in the kitchen! It’s the greatest way to learn new cooking skills that you can take back home with you, and it helps to create memories that will last for a lifetime. I know for certain at the end of my program I will be stuffing my suitcase with caramels and strawberry confiture to give everyone at home a taste of Rennes.
Siena College, Loudonville, NY