Here, the second offering in a series about grocery shopping in Paris. This post: Dairy. Grocery stores, you ask? Mais oui, mon ami. What can be found in Paris grocery chains, would only be found in high-priced gourmet shops back home. Of course, I spend plenty of euros in specialty traiteurs and open-air markets, but think of this tour of grocery store offerings as more of an anthropological study—because if you want a real window on the everyman taste, you can’t beat a giant grocery chain for laying it out for you. And who else but me will give you the skinny on everyday life in Paris—without that pesky glaze of fantasy? Read on!
The French have an expression: vachement, or “cowly,” but it’s used to say “so, so very, unbelievably, oh my God like freakin’ super totally.” While there is some debate as to how this expression came to be, one has only to tour the dairy section of a French grocery store to grasp why these lovers of dairy would use “cow” as a superlative. The variety of milk-based food products is unimaginable—and they are in abundance. At the Monoprix Nation, in my neighborhood, they don’t have a dairy aisle, it’s more like a dairy universe. Not even in Costco, in the States, have I seen such quantity and type of product—unique flavors, dozens of brands, never-before-seen food forms—as to make even a Wisconsinite blush. It’s, like, vachement insane!
Take yogurt, for example. There aren’t just five or ten types of yogurt for sale, but fifty kinds, or more. And not just flavors like strawberry or apricot—more exotic choices like rhubarb (my favorite!) and fig, that are vachement decadent.
And not only yogurt, mind you, but, fromage frais—yogurt’s cheesier, fattier, dessert-ier cousin. Not sweet enough for you? No problem. There are rows upon rows of parfaits, flans and puddings—some cooked and packed in tiny glass jars that tasted like mama stood over the stove and stirred that milky goodness herself. You can taste the milk in the pudding, and it’s truly creamy, as opposed that slimy, gelatinous stuff back home. It’s so vachement incredible, I gained five pounds eating that pudding, what I would never eat in New York. But then you can’t get store-bought pudding like that in New York. Maybe that’s for the best.
Then there’s the [pause for a moment of awe] butter. In France, would you expect anything less than thirty-odd kinds? Of course, not. Butter so creamy, so eat-right-off-the-knife delectable—even the cheap stuff!—you’ll want to fill your cart with nothing but. Butter! Brands hailing from all over the country, each region offering its own specialty, like my favorite from Brittany with chucks of salt embedded in it. Vachement out of this world.
And of course, there’s the cheese. Hundreds of types of cheese. More cheese than you could ever eat, but will want to try. Soft, stinky cheeses; firm, pungent cheeses. Creamy. Crumbly. Spreadable, melt-able. Camembert, Cantal and Compté. Époisses de Bourgogne, Emmental de Savoie. The saints—Felicien and Nectaire. They are all vachement—never mind, you get where I’m going with this.
Here, are a few parting shots from Dairyland. Vachement moo-velous.
Click to read the first post in the series here.
Click to learn more about my obsession with French butter here.
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oh my goodness, what a great post. The French supermarket dairy sections are the absolute BEST. All that cheese and butter…
Thank you! Agreed—amazing good fun to shop in them. The quality of their commercial dairy goods really are often better than US commercial products, and often with fewer chemicals and preservatives. Not staying it’s better than the artisanal stuff, but marvel—, er, moo-velous, just the same!
Ah, the butter! This is a bit off topic, decidedly not grocery store butter, but M. Bordier’s offerings are most definitely worth a try: http://www.lebeurrebordier.com/collection/beurres/ ?
Oh my indeed. Wow that butter looks irresistible. And it’s not off topic for my post called, Paris Au Beurre!
What’s the latest with your apartment and the leak?
Thanks for asking! Well, we now have a court expert who will survey the situation and decide who pays my damages (and who fixes the leak). When the expert comes is anyone’s guess. With the impending holiday season I’m thinking next year some time. I’ve gotten totally zen about it at this point. I’m starting to understand why the French shrug a lot.
Love that Euro-style butter.
Seriously, Will. It’s so much more delicate and milky. Why does American commercial butter taste so oily?
I can relate! when I moved here I was in heaven considering i’m a yogurt freak!
I never saw so many types of yogurt in my life. And the fromage blanc? Seriously? It’s like crack.
The fromage blanc is all i eat haha! I go through the 1kg tubs a week !
All those different dairy products are amazing!! I want to try them all! Is the cost relativly the same as in the U.S.? I lived in Belgium and Germany a few years back and I remember dairy prices being a little higher.
I find the prices much lower than in NYC (not that this is saying much). But all of these items are quite inexpensive. A huge block of butter for 1.98 eu, is pretty damn cheap.
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We have the same favourite butter! It freezes well, by the way (and it’s easy to transport when frozen, no matter how long your flight!) Thanks for reminding me how much I love the dairy section in French supermarchès! I cannot wait to get back there!
Wait—what? You take it on the plane with you? Where do you fly to? It’s not contraband? This would change everything! By the way, have you seen my post about French grocery stores and dairy? https://myparttimeparislife.com/2014/12/18/how-paris-does-groceries-part-ii-foods-that-moo/