One of the greatest pleasures of shopping in France is going to an open-air market and having the vendor ask, “Will you be eating this today or tomorrow?” Whatever your answer, you receive the melon, tomato, or peach with the perfect ripeness. And if your answer is today, they may throw in a free tomato with a bad spot that can be easily cut out, as happened to us earlier this week. Whether the markets are relatively large, as in La Flotte on the Île de Ré, or small like the one in Crozon, it’s a treat to see all the fresh, local products and to meet the producers of our food.
Often there are vendors with prepared foods – last Saturday there was a truck with six different Vietnamese dishes on huge hot plates in Crozon. Now that fall is in the air, the vegetable sellers in Crozon have cooked beets – they are a great addition to our salads. And it goes without saying that there’s Sunday Chicken!
We can easily kill an hour wandering through a new grocery store and checking out their wares. Supermarkets at home have expanded their offerings, but they don’t have a full clothes and shoes section (with a dressing room even). Nor do they sell mattresses and refrigerators, like one we went to last week. Perhaps it’s because in these more rural areas there aren’t many other stores selling those items?
Dairy items are really inexpensive, even organic dairy. Twelve organic yogurts cost just €3; organic milk is half the price of at home. Oddly, one liter of (organic) milk costs €0.97 but a pack of six is €6.36. What happened to the volume discount?
On the other hand, you can buy 20 kg (45 lb) of potatoes for just €12.99. Yesterday we passed a guy selling bags like this out of his truck. What the heck do you do with this many potatoes at once? Does everyone have a root cellar? Or maybe the deep-fat fryer at our rental gives a hint… this is the only place that a fryer was considered essential for a rental.
Who would have thought the French have a taste for Mexican (-American) food… and that Old El Paso would have the market cornered?
French grocery stores sell only small bags of flour – no five- or ten-pound bags like we see in the US. Why? Who needs to bake when you can buy so many great breads and pastries everywhere?
And how can you object when the boulangerie tells you the baguettes aren’t so good looking so they’re going to give you two for the price of one? They looked (and tasted) fine to us!
And if you don’t make it to the pâtisserie, there are always the prepared foods at the supermarket. The desserts are amazingly inexpensive – two crème brulées for €1.88! In the interest of cross-cultural research we had to try a few…
One thing I do miss – Whole Foods low-sodium chicken broth. Apparently you can’t buy low-sodium broth or bouillon cubes here…at least we haven’t found them. Fortunately the Sunday Chicken provides a carcass every week for broth production.