There’s a misconception that the French don’t eat junk food. While it’s true that the drugstore shelves around here are lined with, of all things—drugs, there are some foods around that don’t quite fall into the high-fallutin’ AOC category elsewhere.
It’s become commonplace to see teenagers swilling la Coca from plastic liter jugs on the sidewalks and it’s not unusual to see a Parisian toting a bag from McDo. In the candy department, the dubious tagada, artificially-flavored strawberry marshmallow domes, I’ve unfortunately had served to me melted on top of a crème brûlée in lieu of a crackly layer of caramel (which was not an improvement, believe me…) and in more upscale desserts in trendy restaurants. Both I found rather icky.
But there is one junk food that I do share their affection for: les oursons guimauve.
Admittedly, I’m a sucker for anything made with marshmallows (for example, I love those heavenly toasted coconut-covered marshmallows…and don’t even get me started on Mallomars…), especially if they’re enrobed in chocolate. And another thing that I’ll admit: I’m working on a magazine article for an ice cream riddled with marshmallows and I wanted to use store-bought guimauves.
Since almost all of the supermarket-variety marshmallows here in France are tinted a rather unappetizing shade of pink or green, I opted for the ones dipped in chocolate (who could blame me?) and brought home a bag of the oursons guimauve, aka, marshmallow bears, which are sometimes more-cuddly called les nounours à la guimauve, or marshmallow teddy bears.
When I tore into the blue plastic bag, I plucked one right out and popped it in my mouth. The thin layer of milky chocolate enrobing the marshmallow was just the right amount, and easily broke away and disappeared as I bit down on the cushiony-soft marshmallow underneath.
So although the French take their share of knocks, I challenge anyone to say they didn’t get this one right, even if it does fall under the dubious category of “junk food.”
But I’m not worried about that. The only thing that I do worry about is now I need to go back to the store to get more; I snacked my way through half the bag already—and the other half is bound to not last much longer.
Pain de Sucre: Marshmallow-maker in Paris
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