Welcome to the first in a series. In this post, I’m focusing on French junk food. Yes, you read right, and judge me not. I hear you: But the bread, the cheese, the open markets full of bread and cheese! Sure, Paris is undoubtedly the place to find incredible fresh food and exquisite gourmet delicacies not born in a factory. I partake of all those things. But there are plenty of bloggers out there writing about that kind of food. Where you gonna find someone willing to get real about the guilty pleasures of junk?
But let me make this clear: this is not just any junk food; we’re talking about French junk food here. It’s special. It would have to be, because I’m anything but a junk food junkie. In New York, I eschew the stuff. But the sophisticated French palate extends to the snacks, elevating them to a new level. What’s commonplace in France is gourmet in the U.S. Those crackers at my local Franprix: €1.99; the same thing at Dean & Deluca in NYC: $20.
In fact, my obsession with French products has me spending 150% more time in their grocery stores than I ever would in my own country where my M.O. is get in, get out. In Paris, I actually enjoy grocery shopping; it’s a form of entertainment, and I admittedly spend my time largely fondling products I have no intention of buying. Can’t help myself; it’s all so fascinating—the flavors, the varieties, the packaging. Especially, the packaging.
The snacks aisle is probably the most compelling because the pop food culture of a people is the most immediately telling. The chips and crackers are more savory; the cookies and candy, more complex and luscious. It’s hard not to be tempted by the unique and sometimes curious snack products on the shelves. Call me a food adventurer, like that guy on the Travel Channel. Ok, I probably won’t be eating bull testicles or curried worms anytime soon, but I’ll give cheeseburger-flavored potato chips a try. Given the chemicals involved, I might be the braver person.
These are a few of my favorite (snack) things. What are yours?
Yes, that’s right: Roast Chicken and Cheeseburger flavor. How do they taste? I have to say, they are delicious, with flavor so true to the real thing, you could even taste the pickle on the cheeseburger. I don’t know how they do it—and I don’t want to know.
Delicate Rose Biscuits, in elegant packaging—just hanging out in the ol’ cookie aisle like so much Keebler. The plastic packet, top right, contains rose biscuit dust to use in baking, or just inhale.
These are ridiculous and I have no problem admitting I eat them from time to time. (Amelie did, why not me?) Normally, I’m all over the chocolate tarts, but I’ve just discovered the chocolate-caramel version. This stuff is as good as anything home baked (by me).
Haha, I love browsing foreign junk food too! Have you tried the curry mango potato chips from carrefour? Delish! I’ve got to find those rose cookies, they look amazing.
The rose cookies are lovely. Best with champagne.
Roaming local markets and apothecaries is an integral part of my exploration of a new city or town. I have to say, though, that it is a very good thing I have not discovered the above delights in my French wanderings…I’m sure I would love them far too much!
OH the time I’ve spent at bon marche and the grocery section of monoprix….love it…and you need to try the lemon tarts from bonne maman…to die for.
Yes, La Grande Epicerie at Bon Marche is Mecca. They’ve redone it but I haven’t gotten over that way to see what it’s like now. Also, Monoprix is amazing. The largest is in my ‘hood, and the grocery section is a place to get lost in (in a good way). But I find I fall into my local Franprix (also a big one) and it has all the same stuff and a bit cheaper. Plus, there’s a huge bio (organic) section, to assuage the junk food guilt. 😉
You haven’t lived till you explore Carrefort, the cheapest and the best. Big one at Ecole Militaire open till midnight. You’ll drop yr socks. They have their own range of regional products missing at Monop. Still Monop has crackers – scarce as hens teeth in Paris. Try Gouda with grain in little boxes. Have you been to Hema, the Dutch IKEA? Rue Rambuteau – a killer for snacks.
Oh my friend, I HAVE been in Carrefour, a huge one in the banlieu. I write about it here: https://myparttimeparislife.com/2012/12/01/paris-au-beurre/
I have been to HEMA also. There’s one in my neighborhood. Great for those little gauffre crackers but I try to avoid HEMA because they are cropping up like Starbucks everywhere.
I miss those rose biscuits! They go especially well with champagne. Favorite chips flavor: olive oil, found at the Champion–where, when they created a section for UK products, they called it “Ethnique” 😉
These are Lay’s products…. Why can’t we get them in USA ?? 😦
Ah, yes. Sad, isn’t it? I tried to suggest some of these when Lays did a contest for new flavors. The options were really uninventive. As if chipotle flavor is all anyone can come up with for new and different? What gives?
I think people in Europe and Asia are more adventurous with snack foods. Have you seen the array of KitKat bars one can get in Japan or Taiwan?
Oh, I know! As I said, normally I don’t eat this stuff, but how can you NOT try Earl Grey Pocky?
I quite likely have a problem with the Belin Emmental Cheezies. A bag of those will disappear in about 30seconds if I’m not careful…and yes, that’s a ‘family’ sized bag. zut alors.
Oh dear. Now I must try these. I’m doomed.
I’ve probably spent more time browsing grocery stores here than museums. For Paris junk food I like to go straight to the source – the Metro vending machines. Snack of choice was the slightly chilled(from drinks nearby) potato chips ‘nature’…great during hot weather. I never ate chips in NYC ever. Go figure.
Métro vending machines—wow, you’re hard core. I have to say, the quality of the snacks in those machines is 10X better than the stuff in US machines.
I must just add…this subject is very dear to my heart..you haven’t lived till you visit a supermarché in the sticks. True you will have to travel to le Loire or Poitue-Charante but supermarchés there are HUGE…much more fun browsing.
Love this post. I only spent a brief time in Paris (years ago), but a local introduced me to a snack food, that I still recall fondly. Wafer tubes, with some sort of savoury cheese filling. They came in a box, from memory… and were delicious!
For the life of me, I can’t remember what they were called… any possibility that someone is familiar with these?
Oh YES, I love these. So delicate and flavorful. I serve them often at my cocktail parties. As soon as I’m back in Paris next week, I’ll see if I can send you a pic, because I only know them by sight.
Thanks Lisa… that would be wonderful!
I believe these are the wonders you seek? Et voilà !
Hi just returned from Uzes where there was a small Carrefour, but there were boxes of round balls stuffed with chevre, gouda, fromages et noix, etc. The balls are covered in that flaky pastery that is very thin and crunchy and come in a box. Casino sells their own brand as well. I thought they were Belin but they are not. The boxes are rather small and these cheese puffs or balls are packaged in silver wrap that is sealed. I am dying to buy these anywhere! The closest thing I can find on the web are the roquefort stuffed corn (flour) cheese balls. Not the same. Please help. They are in the apero section of snacks. Thanks
You’re looking for something like that here in France? There are the Galichons by Albert Mènes that are wonderful. I have found them in my Franprix and Monoprix. There is a website where you can get items like these from France. I need to poke around but I will get back to you.
they Exist!!! they are referred to as Savory gaufrettes (I bought mine at ‘Casino’). Need more!
Is it just like a mini-gaufrette? Because the galichons are little morsels of delicate flakiness filled with cheese, which sounds like what you had. If just the little gaufrettes, I buy those at Franprix. I like the sundried tomato flavor. Have you seen the Belin mini-pizzas? They should not be good but they are. Oh so bad-for-you good.
No its not really a gaufrette, that is just what they are commonly called. Its a round ball made of gaufrettes pastry filled with cheese! Thanks!
Sounds deelish. I’ll be on the lookout.
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I think I have found the subject of the ethnographer’s journal I must complete for school when I visit Paris in a few weeks. I love touring grocery stores! This is right up my alley, I mean aisle! I can’t wait!
Then you should check out Part II! All about dairy. https://myparttimeparislife.com/2014/12/18/how-paris-does-groceries-part-ii-foods-that-moo/
Yes! I currently have a French family (from LeMans) staying with me for 6 weeks. Last year I had a family from Brittany stay for a month.
Both families eat absolute junk! I have yet to see the second family eat a vegetable. I asked if the French like vegetables and he said no not really. I sent them to a store with a good mix of regular and organic foods (I live in San Francisco). They were shocked by the prices. They did buy a roast chicken (organic, I checked the package) but they complained it didn’t taste good. Of course not they are used to Lydel chicken. Lydell – a huge German discount supermarket found all over Europe. (I mentioned this store and they got excited – sorry we don’t have in America) I then took them to Safeway and the mom bought 2 dozen “brownie bites,” Nestle quick, chocolate cereal, cube steak (the cheapest) white rice, pasta and Ragu. One basket of grape tomatoes (the only veg they ate all week – BUT they go through one quart of chocolate milk a day – two adults and one child.
The culinary highlight of their trip – a good burger with homemade potato chips – they really went on about the chips! The dad is overweight the mom is obese (same as the first family – mom obese, dad and the 3 children were thin BUT they eat small portions of pure junk).
France has declared obesity a health crisis (24% of adults). They are in denial – they still think their food is superior. I don’t argue, I just observe (and don’t join them for meals.)