I just returned from a whirlwind, 10-day trip to France. On the last leg of the trip, we went to a grocery store in Nice to pick up some snacks and picnic items. This “ supermarche ” was about the size of a US grocery store with many similarities, but some distinct differences as well.
One difference I noticed was that the serving sizes were much smaller than those you’d find in a US store. French yogurt, for example comes in 3-4oz containers rather than 6-8oz. It is, however, sold in 4-packs of individual servings. When examining the ingredients of French yogurt and cottage cheese I was impressed to see how few there were. And the taste – f antastique!
“ Fromage Blanc “, another French dairy staple, is sold in the same section. It’s sort of a cross between yogurt, sour cream and creme fraiche. While in France I had it a few times in restaurants as an alternative to the rich French cheeses offered at the end of a meal. Often it was served floating in a raspberry syrup for dessert. It makes a light and delicious end to a meal.
Another distinct difference I discovered while shopping for produce. In the produce section I selected my fruit and placed it in plastic bags the same as I would do in the US. Much to my embarrassment, however, when I got to the head of the checkout stand (5 minutes before closing time with several people behind me in line) I discovered that I was supposed to weigh and tag my own fruit using special scales located back in the produce section. I pleaded ignorance and fortunately was escorted back to the scales and shown how to work them, while my the rest of my items remained at the checkout stand. It’s actually a smart system. Rather than have the checkout people memorize a bunch of codes, not to mention weigh each bag of produce – the customer is responsible, so it makes the line at the checkout stand move more swiftly. The scales feature a touch pad with pictures of all of the different fruits and vegetables for sale. The customer places their bag of apples, for example, on the scale, punches the picture and a sticker with the price is produced which they then attach to their bag. When prices change, the store staff only has to change one machine.
The French are also ahead of us in already charging for grocery bags if you don’t bring your own (which of course I didn’t). For a nominal price I did, however, walk away with a colorful bag that made a great beach tote.
More to come on my gastronomic adventures in France in future posts.