Have you ever noticed that in France there is a different store for each food item you want to buy? Need bread? Stop by the boulangerie for a baguette. Going to a party? Pick up a cake at the patisserie. But you will have to go to the fromagerie for cheese. What about honey? Well there is a miellerie for that. This sounds exhausting. And wouldn’t it just be easier to have one supermarket for all of this?
A nation of foodies
Well yes, I suppose it would be easier, but France is a nation of foodies. French culture takes gastronomy very seriously. In France people love food shopping, and they do not mind spending their time looking for the best ingredients they can.
That is why there are so many specialty stores dedicated to one type of food item. They are called “artisans du goût” (artisans of taste) because so much care is put into creating this food that it’s more like a craft. You can be sure that a freshly baked baguette from your neighborhood boulangerie will be much tastier than a loaf of bread from the supermarket.
So what’s the best way to get your hands on some of this delicious food? Well, if you’re feeling adventurous and want to practice your food vocabulary, try a marché (street market). If you’re in Paris, you’ll find that many quartiers have their very own market, which offer the freshest produce, cheese, pasta, fish… and the best prices! Be ready to haggle, and don’t be afraid to ask questions… including for “un goût” to taste whatever they are trying to sell you.
If you’re tired of haggling over each portion of tonight’s dinner, another option is stopping by an “épicerie” (grocery/delicatessen). Carrying everything from spices and jams to milk and eggs, an épicerie is a great one-stop-shop to get most of what you need.
In fact, in Paris, Galaries Lafayette have their own “épicerie fine” called Lafayette Gourmet which is more like a food shopping mall than a grocery store! It’s enormous — you can find the entire Parisian gastronomical experience under one roof here, from bread and wine to the most unusual kinds of foods. It’s great if you’re pressed for time or want to pick up some last minute gifts. But beware– it can get pricey!
Buy a fridge!
The main France travel tip here is that if you are staying in France, try to make sure you have access to a kitchen, or at least a fridge. The biggest part of your French culture culinary experience might not come from eating out at fine restaurants, but from grocery shopping!
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