Monday, February 19, 2007

It's the little things

If I'm feeling brave enough, later on this week I'll post about my most recent birth preparation class. It was certainly a doozy and it makes me wonder if the same thing happened to other pregnant expats and they just took it in stride or what... Nothing bad, just unexpected.

I'm not feeling brave enough today, though. I'm doing belly is getting h-e-a-v-y and I'm hungry all the time. One Very Good Thing that has happened to me recently is the discovery of really tasty white seedless grapes at my local market. They're not there all the time, so I've duly noted that seedless grapes come after lychees in fruit order, at least for this year. That's part of what makes shopping in France either fun or frustrating, depending on my mood when I go shopping. I have yet to figure out why I can buy celery and jalapeno peppers certain weeks and then they'll disappear for a couple of months. Sometimes it's a seasonal thing, but other times it just seems completely random. There's probably a system involving even- and 0dd-numbered weeks or something of the sort, but I haven't yet managed to crack the code.

One other thing that I especially adore about France is the fruit. I'm sure I'm repeating myself, but when I went home for Christmas I was rather disappointed by the selection. It all comes back to the basic trade-off: back home the good thing is that I was always able to find white seedless grapes and celery, no matter the season. (Rhubarb was another story, but I guess that's to be's not one of the 'normal' ones, I guess). The good thing about France is that there's always good fruit to be had and a decent variety of it, even if I can't have grapes all the time. The choice of apples is always amazing to me. I rarely ate fruit back home and now I'm probably eating too much of it, if that's possible. I've turned into a big, fat fruit-eater.

Yesterday we went to the little outdoor shopping center where the stores are always open on Sunday. I remember my husband saying that one of his least favorite things about the US was the fact that everywhere you go, you have the same Target/Wal-Mart/Starbucks/Barnes & Noble/Rack Room little shopping center with a Wendy's or a Chick-Fil-A. He was missing the charm of the little local shops and restaurants that you can certainly find in France. I can understand that and agree with him for similar reasons. On the other hand, I'm not going to deny that I find it strangely comforting to know that there's usually a Target nearby if I need one. Shoot me if you want, but it's true.

Anyway, not too long ago a new section of shops opened at this local shopping strip that looked quite American to me, except with different stores in place of Target and Barnes & Noble. It even has a fake stream in front of the stores so customers get to walk over nice little wooden bridges before they indulge in shopping at Cultura or But. Yes, it's happening here, too. There are the same stores everywhere you go (or at least around Paris): Darty, Cultura, Milonga, Animalis, But, Planete Saturne, etc. The thing that really blew my mind yesterday, though, was the discovery of snack machines in two of the stores we visited. They were in the back of Cultura as opposed to up front near the cashiers, but they were still there. I never see snack machines here except in train stations, so it was just weird. A bottle of Coke will set you back 1.50 euros, by the way. At least they're not (yet) selling hot dogs and nachos.

The other thing I noticed for the first time yesterday was the seeming popularity of deep-fryers. I was looking for a rice cooker at the electronic appliance stores and couldn't find a single one. Usually there's a small selection of "normal" items such as blenders, food processors, scales and such, and for the the more unusual items you get one choice (but at least it's there). I saw a hot-air popcorn popper, a chocolate fountain, an ice cream maker (which also surprised me), and even a miniature ice machine. The next row over, however, featured about 20 different deep-fryers in a row. It took up the entire row. I don't think I've ever been served deep-fried food at someone's house, so I have to wonder who's making all of this fried stuff. It surprised the heck out of me because it's not something I associate with French cuisine. I could definitely use it with my Japanese cookbooks, but not so much with my French ones. Weird.


Erica said...

I love to find out all the little things about France! I love fruit and I am disappointed with what I find here in London, so I am looking forward to France. What about vegetables? Have you got lovely fennels there?
I hope your birth preparation class has not been too hard on you.
I just came back from Paris to see a gyn specialist and I must say I had a good experience, he spoke very good english and was eager to practice, if only it would always be like that!!

Margie said...

OMG! Stores open on Sundays!?! How wonderful, that hasn't reached my little corner of France yet unfortunately. I think eventually there will be more and more open on Sundays. When I first arrived here, during the week, nothing was open from noon to 2pm and now most of the stores are. Actually when my kids were babies, it was one of my fears, running out of something like diapers on a Sunday and not having anything open, never did happen luckily. As for the deep fryers, I think they make a lot of fries here, the traditional "steak and fries" meal. We have it often on Saturdays, seems to be pretty commom so maybe that's why?
btw, enjoy reading your blog :)

Anonymous said...

Yep, I love this one too and yes France has the best fruit and vegatables. I agree. Glad you are finding some of the stores opening on Sunday. Can't wait to read about the birthing class. Take good care and have a wonderful life.

Betty C. said...

A lot of French people have fryers to make French fries. I've never bought one though -- I figure we get enough fries from our occasional trips to "McDo"...

Schokolade Madchen said...

I wish stores were open on Sundays here in Munich! I searched for a proper rice cooker as well and after a lot of frustration I ordered one from a Japanese restaraunt supply company in Germany (online). It's perfect!

Angela in Europe said...

For some reason, blogger is not letting me add a comment. I will try again.
First of all, beignets are the only fried foods I have noticed in French cuisine.

Secondly, you might try Auchan for some of the "normal" stuff you are looking for because sometimes they are much cheaper than DARTY.