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.
LIKE THIS BLOG? GET THE MEMOIR!
Learn more about the journey that led to My (Part-Time) Paris Life in my memoir of the same name ON SALE NOW!