Wednesday, 31 August 2011

Paris domestique

Lucky, lucky me. I'm in Paris for two whole weeks, joining my husband who is here for two months doing research in the archives. He was able to rent the apartment of a colleague who works in Oxford part time, so we are living in luxury in the 19th arrondisement.

It's a large sunny flat - a lovely place to spend time - which is good because I didn't have enough holiday left over, so I'm working remotely part of the time (have I mentioned before how much I love my job?). The neighborhood is not very chic, so there aren't lots of boutique clothes and food shops, as I was hoping, but never mind, there is a Casino supermarket just across the street that fulfils all our needs.

I know when you come to Paris you are supposed to eat in chic bistros, hang out in cafes and shop in outdoor markets, exploring all the wonderful goodies on offer. But to tell the truth, I'm quite delighted to shop in a boring old supermarché, because the food and selection is already so vastly superior to what you find in a British supermarket. The fruit is succulent, the vegetables tasty, and the cheese selection is ridiculously large. To say nothing of the reasonably priced wine.

I got used to shopping in the supermarché when we lived in the suburbs of Caen for a year. No boutique food stores in our area, just an enormous Carrefour on our doorstep. I developed a taste for Petit Billy, a spreadable goat cheese and Chaussée aux Moines, an uncooked pressed cheese with a hard rind and soft inside. Neither of which I can get in the UK, unfortunately. So I have to eat up while I'm here.

I'm also enjoying the new variety of Maille pickles, Malossol a la Russe. Obviously the French are feeling the Eastern European influence as well (see my previous blog post). These pickles have just a tiny hint of sugar, but not enough to ruin them. Delicious on sandwiches with Maille mustard, cured Spanish ham, Chaussée aux Moines cheese and Butterhead lettuce on fresh French bread. I don't require anything more gourmet than that.

And I'm not the only one to appreciate convenience. I found a most interesting product in the flat owner's freezer - packaged chopped frozen herbs.

Herbs from Picard - a whole supermarket for frozen foods!

The only way you would get these in the UK would be to do it yourself*. Not that it is difficult, but us busy women have better things to do! Like work - and as it happens, France has a very high rate of mothers working (and who is busier than a working mother?), partly because of excellent child care facilities, but I'm sure the supermarché doesn't hurt. (Interesting blog post about being a working mother in France here.)

It also helps that living is France is kind of like living in California, in that all the best fruit, veg and produce is local anyway. I suppose the main difference is that California is not known for its cheese (but they do make wine and films!). Ok, granted, there are other differences. For example, California is also not particularly known for fashion and decor. More on that later...

* I have been informed that frozen herbs actually are available in the UK, in the posh supermarket Waitrose. Which I never go to because there isn't one within walking distance and I don't have a car. Also I always assumed that due to its poshness it would be overpriced and full of unneccessary processed items (like frozen herbs). I'm just going to have to stop being lazy and freeze my own.