There have been sweet comments and emails asking more about food in France, so we took the camera to the market this morning and snapped some pictures so I could write a proper post.
We love the food here. We’re so lucky to have easy access to fresh, local produce, and we think it’s wonderful that there’s a focus on what’s in season. When you buy something at the market, it will be placed in a little paper bag and the corners will be twisted up like this:
The bag is filled with 4 small avocados because I’ve been craving guacamole. Question: should I feel guilty if I still crave non-French foods from time to time? : )
We also bought some gorgeous dried apricots. They were placed in a little bag too. We only wanted a handful or so, but couldn’t remember how to say quarter kilo, so we asked for a half kilo instead. Hah!
At the dairy booth, we bought a nice big wedge of Carrouges cheese. We’ve heard it’s pretty mild and really, really good. I can’t wait to try it.
We also bought a pint of fresh milk at the dairy booth. The milk was in big buckets and it was fun to watch them ladle it into this bottle:
I’ve already had a glass full and it is wonderful.
The Tuesday market takes place right in the center of Argentan next to an ancient Cathedral. What a backdrop!
Seeing the variety of citrus makes me smile. And so does the beautiful handwriting on the signs.
At one of the booths, there were live chickens and duckings (I think?):
A woman was buying a live chicken, and the farmer boxed it up in a roomy cardboard box and cut holes for air. Will she keep it for eggs? Or cook it up for dinner? I’m so curious.
After the market, we stopped at the butcher and baker which are right next door.
One thing I never realized before we moved here, is that France (and all of Europe, I think) uses military time. The bakery closes at 19h30 — which means 7:30 pm. I’m still getting used to it.
My observations on food so far, in no particular order:
- There are charming independent shops — like butchers, cheesemakers and bakeries. There are farmers markets almost every day. And there are huge supermarkets as well. Which means you can choose to eat as old school, or packaged and convenient, as you prefer.
- There are bakeries everywhere. No really, they are everywhere — sometimes 2 or 3 on the same block. And they are excellent! We have diligently been trying every possible bakery item so that we can confidently choose our favorites. It’s a difficult job, but we are sticking to the task. : )
- We stop at a bakery daily. We haven’t narrowed it down to one specific favorite shop yet, but like the idea of becoming regulars somewhere. Most days, we pick up baguettes for that night’s dinner, and pain au chocolat (like a croissant with chocolate inside) for the next day’s breakfast.
- Breakfast here is a minor meal. No bacon, eggs, sausage, hashbrowns. Nothing too heavy. A croissant and bowl of hot cocoa seem to be typical. I’ve always preferred a light breakfast, so this works wonderfully for me, and my kids are generally on board as well. I make a pot of hot cocoa each morning and if we don’t have pain au chocolat, then we make toast with honey or nutella instead. (Oscar still prefers oatmeal.)
- Lunchtime is sacred here. Many stores and banks close down from 12:00 to 2:00 so that employees can eat lunch. It is 3 courses, at least. Our kids eat at school, and come home with all sorts of yummy details about their food (which I promise to write up in another post). I confess, I have not eaten a proper French lunch yet. In fact, if I can find an open shop, it’s when I prefer to do my errands, because I have the store to myself.
- For dinner, we have been trying to experiment. We try French meals — like beef stew and crepes with savory fillings. Or sometimes we adapt familiar meals to French ingredients. Last night, we made pizza, but instead of pepperoni and mozzarella, we used a white sauce made from a local cream, and topped it with gruyere cheese, lardons and onions.
- As I mentioned, today, we shopped at the local farmer’s market where there are produce booths, seafood booths, dairy booths and meat booths. Then we visited the butcher and the baker.
- But we also shop at the big supermarket too. That’s where we buy flour, sugar, oatmeal — and even staples from our American diet like cold cereal, pizza dough and tortilla chips.
- One last thing. The yogurt section at the big grocery store is an event. The yogurt takes up as much space as the entire dairy section in an American supermarket. I love yogurt. I’m looking forward to trying a bunch and finding a few favorites.
What about you? What would be your ideal grocery shopping experience?
P.S. — Here’s a post Jordan wrote about grocery shopping in Paris.