Friday, November 06, 2009

A Food Lover's City

I find one thing very ironic about Paris - the food is so amazing and yet so many of its women are beautifully thin! And the incredible thing is, if you go to any restaurant in Paris you see lots of thin women in them not just eating, but really enjoying their food and wine. I may not know quite how that is possible, but I do know for sure that Paris is full of food lovers, both tourists and locals, and it is a fantastic place for anyone who likes to eat - but most particularly for those who love to cook.

Although I really do prefer to fly or take the train to Paris, one advantage of driving as we did yesterday is that you can bring things back in your car - and with the Eurozone firmly in place, you are allowed to bring back most foodstuffs for your own personal use. You do need to be careful and check as there are things (like honey and meat) cannot be taken across the English Channel, but most packaged foods and of course wine can be brought back in limited quantities.

Although my son and I did do some touristy things today while my husband was working, including visit the fantastic Musée d’Orsay, walk up the Champs Elysées from the Louvre all the way to the Arc de Triomph, and have a super lunch at the iconic restaurant Ladurée, we also did something else. We stopped in at a couple of lovely little “epiceries” - French grocery stores. I love grocery shopping in France, because even the smallest of shops have some really gorgeous things - things you probably don’t even know you need - but that make a keen cook like me think “wow I could make some amazing things with that”. I can remember shopping with my husband’s mum when his parents used to live in France a number of years ago, and I would always come home with a car absolutely full of foodie things.

There are tons of exotic spices - some much less expensive than at home because what we consider exotic is actually quite commonplace in France. There are also wonderful ingredients like dried shallots (as far removed from the dehydrated onion of my childhood as they could possibly be), different sorts of pasta, mustards and preserves. Cooking oils come in so many varieties it is almost overwhelming - pecan, walnut, hazelnut, almond and even pistachio are common place varieties of oils here, although some are more expensive than others. I did have to restrain myself from buying a bottle of pistachio oil that cost over 16 Euro - as much as I love pistachios that is a step too far even for me. However, pink peppercorns found their way into my basket, as did pecan and almond oils, flavoured mustards and a beautiful looking jar of fig jam. I can hardly wait to get these things home so I can start to cook with them.

No matter where you travel, visiting local grocery stores is a super way of getting a real idea of how people live and cook in other places, and you never know, you might just end up coming home with lots of lovely goodies in your suitcase, just like I do!