In Saint-Michel, the holy trinity of food is the Super U—the medium-size supermarket is open from 10 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. during the high season—the bakery and the weekly market. I spent my days going from one to another to feed up to ten people. I’m no martyr, though: I often volunteer for the shopping chore because going through the grocery list is entertaining. It gives me a chance to explore the aisles and stalls and rediscover products I haven’t seen in a while.
So I grab a giant grocery bag, a multiple lists and my bag and promise to come back with coffee (the stronger, the better), a loaf of bread (white and sliced), four zucchinis, ham, pâté, four yogurts (unsweetened), four crèmes (coffee or chocolate), rice, bananas, cheese, tomatoes… and do we need salted butter? Oh well, that will be for the next trip. There is only so much I can carry and the two-kilometer walk uphill is brutal.
I’d need a MBA in family management to improve our grocery shopping logistic. I’m not used to shop for that many people—let alone cook for a full table, but that’s not my job, ouf. At home, our shopping routine is pretty efficient. Feng, who is driving, brings back the heavy stuff and staple foods. I buy fresh ingredients almost every day. I usually know what we have left and what we need—keeping track of the fridge and pantry contents is a no brainer with “only” three mouths at home. If I buy four yogurts in the morning, it’s unlikely there will be none left by the evening unless Feng or Mark develops a sudden craving for vanilla yogurts.
But here, I find packs of cookies mysteriously empty when I feel like having one and I can never guestimate how much bread we actually need. It drives me crazy. I should have bought more, I shouldn’t have bought so much… It’s like filling the Danaides’ barrel.
I’m also pretty useless at the market because I’m not up to date with fruits and vegetables prices. In Canada, I know the average price of most common items, but in France I don’t have a clue. Bananas are expensive, but that’s the going rate. Green beans are cheap, especially considering they are sold by kilos and not pounds. Cheese is cheaper than in Canada but it’s not that cheap. And I’m amazed at how much charcuterie French eat—pork products are super popular, from ham and salami through pig ear to dozens of kinds of sausages!