Since I was a child, I’ve always been interested in the role of food in contributing to a culture’s shared identity and sense of community. My interest in cuisine stems primarily from my family background because my parents have worked in the food service industry my entire life, and they used to run their own coffee shop. Seeing their hard work at their shop instilled in me a respect for small business owners and their ability to establish relationships with customers through personalized service and simple food and drink.
For my project last summer, I decided to investigate a small aspect of the culture in Montpellier by researching and sampling local foods created and sold within the Langeudoc-Roussillon region where Montpellier is located. My goal was to better understand the character of the region by investigating the goods that are important there. I also interviewed James Egreteau, the owner of Le Panier d’Aimé, which is a small business in Montpellier that sells locally produced food and drink. By tasting regional products, such as spreads, oils, and wines, and learning about Mr. Egreteau’s growing business, I was able to explore a facet of the culture in Montpellier from a local’s perspective. Locally sourced foods, like those sold at Le Panier d’Aimé, are a way for tourists and younger generations to connect to the rich agricultural history and traditions of the South of France.
Food can sometimes be taken for granted because it’s easy to purchase and consume food without thinking too much about where it comes from and who produces it. However, my experience in Montpellier reinforced the idea that food is a powerful way to connect with others and learn about an area’s history and personality.
- Ellery Lea