This morning as I poured my cereal (I like Post's raisin bran, which I could never eat in Paris), I started to think about the foods you crave when you go for years without them. Pecans, for instance, are almost impossible to come by in France; and the pecan farms cannot ship overseas. Something to do with the douanes. A terrible thing for a Southerner! Half my recipes use pecans. So I used to send huge packages to American friends and relatives coming to visit, and there is still a five-pound bag sitting in my refrigerator back in Paris, a pearl beyond price in the land where the word noix, or nut, also means "walnut"-- as if there is only one true nut. But to me, walnuts at their freshest taste like stale pecans.
Whenever I arrived in the States, I would shock my gourmet friends and snobbish family members by begging to go to coffee-shops, diners, and Popeye's, eating crisp strips of bacon (why can't you get it in France? I have never understood this), "home-cut" donuts, spicy fried chicken, red beans & rice, malted milkshakes, and even (the shame) nachos. After Kentucky Fried Chicken opened up a restaurant at Les Halles, I even wrote a letter to the PDG of Popeye's begging him to open a franchise in Paris too. (Popeye's won the prize for best fried chicken in New Orleans once. That was a coup in what used to be the best-eating city in the U.S.)
Los Angeles, though, is horribly healthy. Since I've been here, I haven't even seen a donut shop. And when you meet for breakfast, people shudder at the idea of a greasy spoon and are likely to suggest an upscale place that has [what are called] croissants.