Biscoff Spread (Speculoos à Tartiner)

speculoos cream

I don’t have conclusive proof, but I’m going to say it anyways: the cashiers at my local Monoprix are perhaps the least pleasant people in all of France. I once needed to use their photo machine for some documents, which required a €5 note. So after waiting in two lines, asking two different cashiers to change a €20, they both refused. So I went downstairs to the supermarket and bought some groceries, which totaled something like €9.68.

When the cashier handed me back a €10, I politely requested 2 fives, mentioning that I needed one to use their photo machine. When she refused, I asked her why. And she snapped back, “Because I don’t have any change!” So I walked to the end of the counter where I could get a pretty clear view of her her cash box brimming with bills. Even though she had a sizable wad of €5 notes stacked up in there, if I wanted to change, I had to go back upstairs to the one particular register that is equipped to give change.

After waiting behind four customers, which I won’t tell you how long that took, when it was my turn, I handed over the €10, asking for 2 fives.

When she said, “What for?”…it took every gram of patience for me not to say, “So I don’t strangle you.”

Lucky for her, instead, I told Romain about it later that day. “You should’ve just gone to the métro station and used their photo machine. Plus they’ll give you change if you need it” he advised, as if that was the only natural thing to do. (But it’s not just change that’s in short supply; it’s sympathy as well. One day I went to pay, and frantically rummaging through my pockets, I thought I’d lost my wallet. The cashier’s response? She started laughing at me. ) It was then I realized that in France, social programs and public companies work much better than private ones. Except Apple, who I am convinced should run the country. And open a Genius Bar in city hall, while they’re at it.

speculoos in jar

If you want to see a French person go ballistic, ask them what they think of their bank. (Interestingly, defying any sort of logic, I just learned that I can only get change only at the branch of my bank where I opened my account, but not at any others.) But the métro, high-speed trains, and French health care system work exceedingly well. In fact, it was strange to watch the health care debate in America since that system is teeming with flaws, and not one time did I hear anyone talk about the French model.

speculoos jar

Most of the arguments against reform went along the lines of “I don’t want the government telling me what to do”, which is unusual because in France, the government doesn’t tell you what to do: your doctor prescribes treatment, then you get it done. There’s no gatekeeper or anyone deciding yes or no, except your doctor. And my doctor is so nice that she prescribed me a free colonoscopy earlier this year, which included a plateful of delicious madeleines in the recovery room afterward.

Even though it’s hard to get a free colonoscopy, I’d imagine, there’s plenty of other good things to be had in America. And when Romain and I went to Florida last year, I brought an empty suitcase just to fill up with all-American goodies at the supermarket. When we hit the register and I’d loaded up the conveyor belt with natural cocoa powder, cupcake liners, marshmallow cream, butterscotch chips, tinned tomatillos, unscented shaving gel, organic crunchy peanut butter, and Orville Redenbacker’s, I spotted the rack of candy, with York Peppermint Patties piled on it, and said aloud that I should’ve got one.

The cashier looked at me, and said, “Hold on just a minute.” Now to anyone who lives in France, you might want to sit down when you read this next line—she actually walked around the counter and grabbed one off the rack for me.

And of course, because I was getting one—even if he didn’t know what it was, Romain wanted one too. And when she looked into those sad French eyes of his, she said, “Honey, do you want one too?” and went over to get him one as well.

speculoos on bread

When we were back in Paris, telling his parents about the trip, I could detect him getting a little misty-eyed when he said, “And the supermarket— pas de stresse!.” Which was something I never really thought about, although I recounted some of the startling differences between upscale American supermarkets with my local one here in my Paris book.

In spite of the fact that Americans think the French only eat wonderful foods, a trip to the supermarket can yield some odd surprises. Yes, my supermarket carries every conceivable flavor of yogurt. Yet they don’t have plain. Harry’s Bread, the most popular bread in France, and similar to Wonder Bread, I just learned now comes in a crustless, snowy-white variety. And how surprised was I recently to see a group of teenagers walking out of a supermarket with a jumbo bag of Pepperidge Farms cookies, literally, the size of a sofa cushion.

However I’m not immune to this creeping bit of Americana dans le supermarché. And a while back I was in line, admiring the jars of Nutella lined up in the unreachable distance. While pondering getting out of line (I can’t imagine asking someone to hold you place while you ran to get something you forgot), I scanned the shelf and saw a jar of something called Speculoos à Tartiner.

For those of you unfamiliar with them, Speculoos are Belgian spice cookies, similar to gingersnaps. They have a bracing nip of spices, enhanced with dark brown sugar, and I don’t mind at all when I order a coffee and one comes alongside as a petit cadeau.

speculoos cream

When I worked at Chez Panisse way back when, the worst thing you could imagine was to run into a co-worker at…of all places, the supermarket. Because sure enough, there would inevitably be a box of Mallomars or Tostitos or a pack of Ballpark franks tossed in your cart. And you were completely busted.

So after I ended my three month boycott of Monoprix (an act which I’m sure went unnoticed), when I was coming home from Monoprix last week, hauling my reusable somewhat transparent shopping bag, I ran into not one…but four different readers…who stopped me to say hello. One told me that she “…laughed her ass off reading my Paris book.” I’m polite so I didn’t ask her to turn around for verification, but I took her word for her.

(To the cashiers at Monoprix: See? Is being polite really all that hard?)

In case any of those four people are reading this, the reason I was being so furtive was that I’d picked up a jar of Speculoos cream at long last. I don’t know if the French are label-readers like we Americans are, but I did take a look at the ingredients. I won’t recount what was in it, because I find all this talk about interdit ingredients a bit ennuyeax. In the states, everyone is in a tizzy about whatever is the bad-guy of the moment, and there were likely a few in there. But since the label proudly noted that this paste won a Saveur de l’année 2009, some sort of French taste award, I reasoned that if it’s good enough for French tastemakers, it’s good enough for me.

Luckily no one saw the forbidden jar in my sack—or they were just being polite, and when I got it home, I twisted off the top, curious to how a spread made with spicy cookies in it would taste.

speculoos spoon

Oh la vâche.

That means, sort of, “Holy cow!” in French. Of course, they don’t use the exclamation mark because that would be très américain. And aside from expecting an occasional token of kindness from the cashiers at the supermarket, I wouldn’t want to be accused of that either. Still, I gotta give it to those French tastemakers: the Speculoos à Tartiner was amazing. Imagine in not-too-sweet gingersnap, spicy and bold, that you can smear over a piece of baguette. Or lick right off the spoon. Move over Nutella. (Unless there’s a chocolate version. Then we’ll talk.)

This is a pretty big jar, and I feel a lot better now that I’ve come out and no longer feel the need to hide my jar of speculoos paste from passing strangers. But because it’s so good, I think I’d better hide it from myself, as this is seriously dangerous stuff. So hopefully this jar will likely last me a while. But if it doesn’t, I know where I can get more. And I’ll even brave the cashiers at the supermarket checkout to get it.

UPDATE: It seems as if this spread is finally be imported into the United States. It’s available on Amazon and may possibly be found in specialty food stores in your area. It’s also available through the Biscoff Online Store.

Related Links and Posts

Chocolate That’s “Too Good to Use”

Chocolate-Hazelnut Spread


Chez Panisse Gingersnaps

L’Enfer de Numericable

Wielding Her Tampon

Non-Fat Gingersnaps

15 Things I’d Miss About Paris If I Moved Away

How to Find Foods and Other Items Mentioned on the Site

speculoos cream

Oddly, the “Biscoff spread” (as they call it elsewhere) keeps disappearing from the Biscoff website, which sells it in the United States. You might wish to inquire at the Lotus Bakeries worldwide site for availability.

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  • May 17, 2010 2:53am

    Other than dehydrating it, crushing it up and snorting it, we have yet to find a recipe for “crack goo” that tastes better than straight out of the jar.

  • May 17, 2010 2:54am

    et la pâte de spéculoos crunchy …. oh my god !

  • May 17, 2010 2:56am

    And those Monoprix checkout ladies always act like the plastic sacs are made of gold and that the cost of them comes out of their own personal salary. At my place they always want me to pay in exact change but I usually tell them I don’t have any since the money drawer in bulging with change. I was at a Franprix once where the clerk actually did run out of change but I think that’s rare.
    I had a dream about you last night for some reason. I dreamed I was frying something up on my stove and you came in to pick up someone and came over to look at what I was cooking and said, “That looks so good!” After you left I realized that I had my sunglasses on instead of my regular glasses and wondered if you thought I was crazy. Now why I dreamed that is a mystery to me.

  • Rijk
    May 17, 2010 3:00am

    Hi David.
    I cannot wait to see your official version of speculoos ice cream. I know there is a version in “The Perfect Scoop” but I admit I have not tried that one yet. (The Guinness-Milk Chocolate ice cream with Oatmeal praline is very, very delicieux) There must be many speculoos recipes following. Imagine all the cookies and desserts possible with this spread.

    I’m writing this e-mail with your Perfect Scoop on my left and the new South Beach diet handbook on my right. Life is full of choices and can be so cruel.

  • Connie
    May 17, 2010 3:00am

    I feel your pain about those Monoprix cashiers. Despite what everyone says about Parisians being rude, I found found that everyone was pretty nice to the American girl when I visited a few years ago… except for the Monoprix cashiers and the CDG gate attendants.

  • charlotte
    May 17, 2010 3:10am

    Harry’s pain de mie without crust and “American” style bread scares me too, the same with those huge bags of precooked croissants and other viennoiseries with expiration dates good for weeks. Any prepacked bread product with something in it to keep it “extra moelleux” for a prolonged amount of time scares me, too.
    I didn’t know what Speculoos cookies were until I came to France, and of course I fell in love with them at first taste. Shortly after, I spotted this spread at a Casino, and I couldn’t resist. I wasn’t disappointed either, the texture is amazing, and you don’t need to put a thick layer to taste it, unlike Nutella. Though the texture of European Nutella puts the American version to shame, but that’s another story…

  • Johanna
    May 17, 2010 3:20am

    I’ve lived in France since 1985 and have found only 2 or 3 reasonably pleasant cashiers in my many years of supermarket shopping.
    My favorite so far works at the Franprix rue de Santeuil in the 5th. She always has a smile, a kind word and has even given me flowers and chocolates on occasion (I’m a pretty good customer, but that has seemingly escaped the notice of all other caissières/gérants).
    This is also the only store in the neighborhood that stays open all day on Sunday.

  • Michmom, Belgium
    May 17, 2010 3:21am

    My bowl of cheerios with blueberries and raspberries suddenly seems so boring. Speculoos cream… seriously? I’ll have to check my supermarche’ for this new treat. My kids love parfaits made with crunched up speculoos, yogurt and berries. Do they sell Cote d’Or chocolate in Paris? This past winter they came out with Cote d’Or Chocolate au Lait Speculoos. Fabulous!

  • May 17, 2010 3:21am

    Braden: Hmm, I hadn’t thought of your first suggestion. And I’ve still got a bucket of tapioca maltodextrin leftover from my Molecular Gastronomy experiments. Unfortunately, I’d need more of the speculoos cream. Perhaps I should just try to find it online…

    Connie & Linda: My friends who live near St Michel said the Monoprix over there has those non-cashier automatic checkout, which they use exclusively for that reason. I don’t know why they’re so nasty, especially the one’s at the Saint-Paul Monoprix. I think it is the whole ‘power’ thing they have with customers, to prove they’re just as good (if not better), than les clients.

    I keep thinking that if they started being nice, the customers would follow suit and their work would be a little easier. But that’s just me. That day she refused to give me change, the French guy behind me was just shaking his head, laughing at her refusal to help a customer. So they find them as enervating as we do.

    charlotte: That bread is scary. And it’s crazy how popular their products are in France. Their site lists all sorts to statistics, including “2/3 des foyers français consomment des pains de mie et viennoiseries Harry’s”- (2/3rds of the French eat their breads and pastries.)

    I’ll stick with my local baguette, thanks.

  • May 17, 2010 3:23am

    My friend introduced me to this sublime stuff last month. He serves it on crêpes at his Crêperie. (swoon)
    I’ve resisted buying a jar so far, because I know how quickly it will disappear if I bring one home. Seriously dangerous is right!

  • May 17, 2010 3:26am

    Hi David,

    I’m an American living in Belgium and I absolutely LOVE Speculoos à Tartiner! In our house we mix it with a dark chocolate spread. It’s our own version of PB & J sandwiches except we use croissants. Very delicious!! And have you tried Haagen Daz’s Speculoos ice cream? As far as I know it’s not sold in the US but you can easily find it at Carrefour. I’d be interested in any ideas you may have about incorporating the Speculoos à Tartiner into a home-made ice cream.

    As a side note… I was traveling in Egypt last Dec. and NO ONE has change there! lol! As a last resort my friend & I went to a bank and THEY told us they didn’t have change! Can you imagine a bank with no change… Oh, wait you live in Paris so I think you’d understand. lol! After some persuasion the bank finally gave us change. ;)

  • May 17, 2010 3:28am

    There’s some things, as this paste, that won’t get you any odds looks from french people :D.

    We do like quality products but we also love “les madeleines de Proust”, which as you may know is not another treat but a literature reference. Proust wrote with passion and in a very precise style about the fact of rediscovering the taste and the feeling of madeleine cookies from his childhood, along with the memories attached to that treat. The saying is now used as a way to describe amazing foods with incredible taste, related to nostalgia or strong pleasures, no matter the “forbidden-ness” of those foods… Objecting “c’est ma madeleine de Proust”, or “Ah oui mais ça, c’est ma madeleine !”, can be both interpreted as “I have strong feelings, a love story with that food, so it’s my joker, refrain your sarcasm because I simply won’t hear you”.

    Usually french people completely understand the madeleine feeling, because everybody here has his own :).

    Speculoos paste is definitely one of those products. You already talked about les oursons guimauve which are another. I think s’mores and rice krispies treats would be exactly the kind of american madeleines de Proust, too.
    If you go near Belgium sometimes, prepare to stock some of those jars, because they are less expensive (and if I remember well, I think there’s other brands distributed there).

    Anyway I look forward to see what kind of recipes you are going to create with this !

  • May 17, 2010 3:33am

    Hi David,

    I found a orange-chocolat-speculoos spread at Paris last month. This one. It IS amazing. I believe I bought it at Monoprix St Germain, but it seems you can order it online.

    BTW, I liked Les Petits Carreaux so much that I went twice during my stay. And my hosts loved the Kayser’s pain aux écureils. Thanks a lot for that post!


  • May 17, 2010 3:33am

    Wow – a spicy gingersnap-ish spread. What is not to love?
    I’ll be sure to pick this up on my trip to Paris next month. Thanks for sharing David!

  • May 17, 2010 3:40am

    you’re so right – this is seriously addicting stuff. maybe because the spread isn’t cloggingly sweet. i’m known to have snorted the whole jar in two days, so.. yeah. i first tasted it in a cafe in lyon as part of café speculoos. mmmmmm.

    on a side note,
    >> (I can’t imagine asking someone to hold you place while you ran to get something you forgot)
    I’ve had the french do that! but maybe that’s because they somehow see that I’m not a “local” and know that i won’t go crazy. or maybe that depends on le département.

  • Hal
    May 17, 2010 3:40am

    I thought you would appreciate this Belgium distributor description.

    “The pasta is fun for those who like breakfast sandwiches with nonchalant speculaas coffee in the log. It is also an alternative to other bread spreads as of Nutella chocolate and peanut butter of Calve. Calve cost of peanut butter again and is still equal calorie richer and bolder – but less sweet – than Speculoos pastes. The ‘least’ – and that is all relatively cases – four classic Lotus speculoosjes lay between your sandwich. But you can not smear or bread with butter, otherwise it does not matter. Pasta speculoos grease and then soak in the coffee is finally be cheaper than the traditional way.”

  • Ledina
    May 17, 2010 4:01am

    OMG the cashiers at Monoprix!

    The first day I moved to Paris last year (from Barcelona), I went to the Monoprix near St.Michel, where I made the mistake of buying a baguette (it was my first day, give me a break!). The cashier woman took the baguette out of the wrapper, with her I’m sure very clean hands, and proceeded to snap it in two and then put it back.

    I was most disappointed about not getting to walk around with a long baguette under one arm. But honestly, splitting my baguette in two, without asking?

    And then I found all those lovely bakeries near my place and lived happily every after. The End.

  • May 17, 2010 4:13am

    I felt my blood pressure steadily rising as I read this post – I just about ended up with steam pouring out of my ears (and then the lovely cashier calmed my nerves… always so even-less-expected after the ghastly ones). The spread sounds delicious – I don’t think I met baking within ginger in it that I didn’t like, so the idea of this sounds just brilliant. I’m thinking of whether it would be good as a filling for lemon cake (the reverse of ginger cakes with lemon icing, maybe). But out of the jar is hard to beat, too. Now, to find somewhere that ships this stuff to Australia…

  • May 17, 2010 4:20am

    Hi David!

    Long time reader, first time writer!

    My Frenchman and I discovered this delicious spread on a quick trip over to Belgium and were instantly hooked. Straight off the spoon – what a guilty pleasure! His family kindly bought us another giant jar, only for my Frenchman to realise – quel horreur! – IT WASNT THE CRUNCHY VERSION. In his opinion, the non-crunchy version is like eating melted plastic. On each successive trip, we could only find the ‘smooth version’. He even searched the ‘pickles’ aisle in the hope that they had been accidentally placed in the wrong shelf. I’m sure you know the look on a French person’s face when they’re about to start a meal and there’s no bread to accompany it – sad, desperate, craving eyes, willing to do anything for a hit – that was him in the Belgian supermarket. And then, praise the food gods!, we found the crunchy version at our local Monoprix, and all was well in the world :-)

    PS If I had seen you on the street with the smooth version, you would have been, like, totally busted ;-)

  • May 17, 2010 4:21am

    Here in Switzerland, I’ve seen a lady pay for a loaf of bread (3.20 chf) at the supermarket with a 500-franc note… and nobody batted an eyelid. Not that the Swiss are massive on customer service- they just respect money!

    As for the “Elu Saveur de l’Annee”, I have read that it’s a bit of an “arnaque”- see here, although the article I read was a lot more scathing!

  • May 17, 2010 4:41am

    The first thing I noticed about French grocery store cashiers is that they’re all sitting down. Since American cashiers are all standing, and generally friendly, I think we should make all the French cashiers stand up. (Good luck with that.)

    Once, while my sweet 18-year-old niece was visiting me in Paris, I got food poisoning and I was in great need of my mother’s old remedy of coke sipped over lots of ice. Forget about the ice here – my freezer is half the size of a shoe box and doesn’t freeze. But I sent my niece to the Franprix and asked her to get me two cold coke cans from the refrigerator near the cashier stand. She was standing in the long checkout line (for hours) and when she arrived, the cashier looked at the two coke cans with disgust and looked up at my niece and started yelling at her in french. My niece had no clue what the cashier was saying. She mumbled “Je ne parle pas francais” but that was no help. There were 20 people standing in line behind her and she was mortified. The cashier got up angrily, took the two cokes and disappeared. She returned with a WARM six-pack of coke, slammed it down and rang it up. My niece could only pay and run out the door, fighting back tears. Sigh. To this day, I don’t know what rule she broke by taking two cans out of the fridge, versus buying a warm six-pack but I loathe the thought that I might get sick again and need to buy a cold coke or two.

  • macy
    May 17, 2010 5:21am

    The grocery store scene is the same in Germany. It’s absolutely the worst in the discount stores like Lidl or Plus. You virtually have to shop in pairs so that one of you can pay while the other wildly repacks the purchases into the cart to be bagged at an alternate location. If you aren’t fast enough with the packing (and the cashier is lightening fast), the cashier gets very nasty and will start throwing the next customer’s purchases at you like stones.

    It’s a grocery store stoning.

    And god help you if you try to pay with any copper colored change.

  • May 17, 2010 5:31am

    Kristie: Crunchy version?? Where do I sign up!

    Lisa: At places like Franprix, many of the cashiers are non-native French people, and I’ve been told they’re not well-paid, although I don’t know that for a fact. At Monoprix, which is owned by Galeries Lafayette, I suspect the people who work there are treated better. So am not sure why they are so surly.

    In Clotilde’s Edible Adventures in Paris, Clotilde sums it up pretty well, saying that French like to be “of service” not “at your service”, and “A snooty of brusque attitude can be the mark of those who feel their job puts them at an inferior social level; acting in this manner is a way for them to reassert their position of power.”

    But, as I mentioned, it drives the French nuts, too. I think that’s why people (like me) prefer to shop at the outdoor markets, where the merchants are friendlier.

    Heidi: Oddly, I was at the Korean market the other day and my purchases were about €7, and I only had a €50. I was expecting a big scenario, but the woman just took my money, and handed me change…like, um, normal.

  • May 17, 2010 5:38am

    I know I should probably make this relevant to this post, I just wanted to thank you for saving my caramel ice cream the other day with your tutorial. My taste buds (and sugar supply) appreciate it.

    And oh my goodness. I just bought a copy of your book as a present and I couldn’t bring myself to give it away, so I bought two.

  • May 17, 2010 6:19am

    Mmmm this paste looks really good, I could eat it by the spoonful.

  • May 17, 2010 6:28am

    I too thought it was strange to see the cashiers sitting…as do the hair dressers…why is that? I worked as a cashier at the now defunct Delchamps in the southern states and had to stand, I enjoyed being able to move around my space on that extra cushy foam pad they put under your feet.
    Delta Airlines hands out the Biscoff Carmel Cookies on their flights and that hooked us, we find them on the US shelves at Walgreens.
    We went to Belgium recently with friends and had to get the Speculoos flavored ice cream, bought a jar of the smooth spread to bring home and gobbled up lots of the fresh baked cookies in this one shop near the main square in Brussels. They had all kinds there….some dipped in dark chocolate were AWESOME! I hope we can find the jars here in London when we run out which will be anytime now.

  • Nicky
    May 17, 2010 6:29am

    Oh my goodness! This post has just made my day! I am very new to your blog but in the last couple of weeks have checked it daily and thoroughly enjoyed looking over the recipes and hearing all the funny goings on of your life in Paris.

    Inspired by my love of icecream an your amazing flavour combinations for icecream recipes on the site I have just this minute ordered the Cusineart ICE30 and The Perfect Scoop from Amazon.

    I am half dutch and a massive fan of speculaas (as we say in Holland). As I was considering my ice cream maker purchase earlier this morning, my very first thought was that I should try and find a recipe for speculaas ice cream – I had this for the first time in an amazing ice cream shop in Cambodia and have been dreaming of it ever since!

    As I was reading this post I thought it would be the perfect ingredient for ice cream and just read in someone else’s comments that there is a recipe in your book! I am now on a mission to find the paste above somewhere so I can try out the ice cream in my new machine (when it arrives) and will be checking the site daily for an updated speculaas ice cream recipe – although I live in Hong Kong so I’m not holding my breath!

    VERY excited! :-D

  • nica
    May 17, 2010 6:31am

    This post makes me want to take a bunch of flowers (ill keep the spread for myself!!) to my local Franprix in Vincennes.

    I’ve been on a year-long boycott of the cauchemar of a Monoprix up the road, but have fallen in love with the staff at our Franprix. they even let me come back later if i don’t have sufficient cash on me (we live across the street so pop in frequently) or if they can’t break my 50. And they never utter a word of disapproval when I stock up on plastic bags for garbage bags at home!

    Of course the markets are far better for produce etc, but it’s so nice to have a Franprix from the twilight zone to pick up basics and guilty pleasures and make change! They’ll gladly break a 20 into coins for the laundry across the street too! I feel so lucky to have encountered actual customer service 7 days a week- and so conveniently located!

  • May 17, 2010 6:40am

    I have just been laughing out loud at your description of the visit to local supermarket.
    How I agree, I could recount at least another 10 stories similar to your from our life in the Lot Dept of France.
    But just one.
    We bought a Bonmaman jam from Intermarché and on returning home could not open it. After various weight lifters and strongmen had attempted then various tools we had a closer look. It had not been manufactured correctly and would never open without breaking the lid.
    So queued up at shop (2 different queues) for the assistant to say just break the jar! Not wanting to destroy the jar (as we keep them for our homemade jams) decided to ask for our money back. No, not possible but could exchange for another one. Complete stock all faulty on shelf so bought another make. Whilst in queue to pay watched assistant put back jam onto shelf for sale. Immediate image of little old ladies with hammer “opening their jam”.

  • emma
    May 17, 2010 6:57am

    I find Monoprix such an exercise in civility. Parts of my own blog are dedicated to my hatred of the place:

  • Sandra
    May 17, 2010 7:08am

    At least you were brave enough and willing enough to go back to Monoprix–nasty cashiers aside. I have a supermarket locally here in MA–Shaws, which is so bad that I have decided never to set foot in it again. Aside from the very bad smells coming from the fish department ( which is enough to turn stomachs), the self-checkout area is poorly designed and runs just as badly. Can’t put anything down and the system complains at everything you do. The regular cashiers are okay, not nasty….but their prices are ridiculous in comparison to the competition in the area.

    Good for you to make the comment about the French healthcare. And you are right–no one ever mentioned it. And going through recent and ongoing mysterious health issues, I would much prefer to have a system of going to get a second opinion without a lot of nonsense. ( Are they competing for my insurance dollars? Probably to build up the bottom line.) I briefly volunteered early with AARP and went to a meeting with Barney Frank–yes, that one, my Congressman. He even wanted a single payer system, but Obama didn’t and that was the end of that. Although the program passed–just like the one in MA, designed by a Republican Governor, Mitt Romney. And everyone goes around talking that we will have a nationalized plan—um,er folks–we don’t have one in MA–everyone just has to buy coverage, and file a form with your annual tax filing to prove that you have coverage. That doesn’t say Obamacare to me.

    As for the Speculoos cream and Nutella–why don’t you try a mix of them? I can get Nutella easily here, but not the other. And they sound like they would go well together–spicy and chocolate. Not unlike any of your early recipes! Spoon licking good!!

  • johnt
    May 17, 2010 7:22am

    We cycled Flanders last month and I overdosed on speculos–hotels often had packets of the spread too, for breakfast breads. Many places also had speculos ice cream that was incredible–buy another jar and make that David!

  • Marlowe
    May 17, 2010 7:31am

    Whatever happens, never EVER get behind someone at Monoprix who is buying any kind of clothing item. You will be there until you go gray, and if you are already gray then until you hair falls out (or both).

    I shopped at the Monoprix St-Germain-des-Près for years … the Surly Factor there is quite high indeed. I changed neighborhoods several months ago and have found a Monoprix store that is actually not bad, grocery/service-wise … there are usually no lines and the cashiers are (fairly) friendly and don’t practice “grocery store stoning” as mentioned above (though if there is a French person behind you in line they will get very antsy while the cashier waits to start ringing them up while you are gathering up your last jars of Speculoos).

    I have become too French, though, to share this Monoprix’s location. Bonne journée!

  • Eli
    May 17, 2010 7:32am

    I too adore this stuff and stock up on trips to Belgium.

    Did you know there is also a liqueur?

  • May 17, 2010 7:44am

    Hi David, thanks for another elucidating & entertaining post… just recently I came across speculoos gelato (alas, in London) and it piqued my curiosity. Now that you’ve described it so deliciously, I must check my local Monoprix for a jar. It sounds like a yummy topping to add to the crêpes aux sarrasin that are the standard midnight snack chez moi. The current favorite is with the Clément Faugier vanilla chestnut spread . Of course adding a smidge of chocolat tartiner for good measure always adds to the sweetest of dreams, wouldn’t you agree ? :)

    PS, luckily the cashiers there are polite (gasp!)

  • May 17, 2010 7:46am

    I received a jar of that stuff from a Belgian friend and I must be one of the few who was underwhelmed – and I love Speculoos cookies. Give me Nutella any day.

  • Steve
    May 17, 2010 7:49am

    when I went into Franprix last month, my first trip into a French super market all I could think of was the things you’d mentioned in your book about the staff!

    Maybe it was because it was Saturday so I was being served by a pretty young Saturday worker but the check out girl I was served by was both helpful and happy.

    I should probably avoid going in any Parisian supermarche’s ever again so as to avoid having my dreams that these pretty, helpful and happy staff can be found everywhere!

  • May 17, 2010 7:57am

    Oh. My. Word. They have that in spread form???!!! I LOVE speculoos!!!! My Dad’s Belgian and I spent my childhood carrying huge bags of those little ladies (I seem to remember they were shaped like little ladies when I was younger) back from the continent after our holidays over there and they’d barely make it the journey home! And now it’s available in an even quicker delivery mechanism? Soooooo stockpiling that on our summer hols this year!

  • BruceT
    May 17, 2010 8:37am

    Years ago a French friend was visiting me in San Francisco. She and I were at the supermarket and the guy stocking the shelves saw the milk in our cart and said “the other brand is half price today.” My French friend’s jaw just about hit the floor. She couldn’t stop talking about it for the rest of the week.

    Her shock was only surpassed when paying the toll at the Bay Bridge when the toll taker said with a big smile, “You have a great day now!”

  • May 17, 2010 8:44am

    We were at a dinner party, in Antwerp, two years ago, and were introduced to this amazing spread! Apparently there was some sort of invention contest and this paste was the winner. Sorry I can’t remember the full story.
    When my brother comes home for his annual state-side visit, instead of bringing an empty suitcase – he brings Speculoos Paste and Belgian Chocolates – SCORE!

  • May 17, 2010 9:02am

    Oh, I live for this stuff. Have you ever tried Ovomaltine spread? They sell it in Switzerland but I don’t know about France: it’s like a malted Nutella with little pieces of malted crunch… I go crazy for it.

  • May 17, 2010 9:13am

    Back in the ’60s, while attempting to pay for using the public toilet, the employee started yelling at me at me for taking too much time getting the money out of my purse. Well, several people behind me in the line scolded her, saying things like “Can’t you see she’s a tourist?” and “It’s people like you who give France a bad reputation!”

  • May 17, 2010 9:16am

    Hey, I have a newfound appreciation for the folks that work at our local IGA and Sav-A-Lot.

  • May 17, 2010 9:19am

    Thank you so much for your very accurate post of monoprix cashiers. I lived in France for two years and the way cashiers glared at me when using ‘big’ bills (20 euros) has left a lasting impression. Now whenever I travel, I am in perpetual fear that people will reject larger bills. I am currently living in Brazil and for the first few weeks I was so scared of using R$20 bills, not to mention R$50…..but it turns out this is only a problem in Paris.
    I also am so tempted by the speculoos spread. Next time I am in France, I will pick some up. The timing of your post was very appropriate. I just made speculoos for the first time in Brazil (it was a bit challenging to find all the ingredients.. but the cookies came out delicious!). Now that I read all the comments about speculoos ice cream…that is definitely next on my list.

  • Mrs Redboots
    May 17, 2010 9:29am

    Right – now I know what to look for in the Intermarché next week! It sounds just my sort of thing. And also Madame Loic, if they sell her…. Oh, I can’t wait – haven’t been to France since November, far too long!

    It always amuses me that America, the so-called “Land of the Free” is actually the Land of Personal Service that goes beyond anything you’ll find in Europe.

  • May 17, 2010 9:47am

    David, your post could be written about Italian supermarkets, or Italian sales people, or Italian bus drivers. One of the first things I noticed and loved after moving to the States was the politeness of everyone servicing the public. Being from Italy, where the cashiers don’t even look at you when you hand them the money, I was kind of taken aback and annoyed by every one asking me how I was doing, like it was any of their business, but I got used to it and it makes a much more pleasant experience. Now that I have lived in the States 18 years, I hate it when I go back to my country and experience the rudeness again. I think that part of the problem is that the costumers are very rude to the people behind the counter, if you start smiling at them and making small talk, most of them melt away and smile back, and some look at you like you are on drugs.

    Thanks for the chuckle!

  • May 17, 2010 10:03am

    You can order the Speculoos a Tartiner at

    There is a $50 minimum order, but they have both the smooth and CRUNCHY version of the Speculoos. I am all over that!

  • Susan
    May 17, 2010 10:04am

    My biggest story when I returned to the Washingon, DC area from visiting my friend on my first trip to California, (San Jose, 30+ yrs ago!) was how a cashier at the local grocery store exchanged a product I was buying for another from the sale bin that was $2.00 cheaper..of her own initiative! I was so shocked! The cashiers in the stores in the DC metro area weren’t rude exactly, but they didn’t acknowledge your presence, ever! The experience was like the day dream one has while waiting in line, hoping for the kind of service that would be ideal, but usually is not! It was a double-blinker!

    This past Mothers Day, I was at See’s Candy to purchase a gift. The woman behind the counter was noticeably abrupt and remote, not usual for a See’s employee. There were only two clients in the store, so there was no rush but I felt I was being hurried along (God forbid she would have had a cattle prod..or a taser gun!). At the checkout, I noticed her accent was.. er, European..and I thought of your tales of the cashiers at your local Monoprix. It was an “Ah Ha” moment.

  • Cyndy
    May 17, 2010 10:05am

    Marlowe may be too French to share her Monoprix location, but I’m not! The people at the Monoprix on Ledru-Rollin (which I hope is not your Monoprix, David?) have never been anything but friendly to us. Even the people stocking the shelves have been helpful.

    Of course my French is pretty bad, so maybe they have taken pity or feel it’s not worth the effort to be mean as I might not understand anyway. Why insult someone if it’s going over their head. We lived in New Jersey for three years, and I have never encountered ruder sales clerks anywhere. Anyone who thinks Monoprix employees are rude ought to try a Pathmark in North Jersey.

    Now some of the people at a few of the fancy cheese shops–different kettle of fish. But I love their cheese, so must endure.

    We had American friends here last week whose entire carry-ons are filled with Speculoos spread. There will be a quest to find it in the States when they get home.

  • May 17, 2010 10:12am

    you’ve astounded me david – i cant believe social programs and public companies are more efficient in france than public companies (in greece, this is so exactly the opposite)

    that speculoos pate sounds wonderful – we can get speculoos biscuits here, and they are often given with a cup of coffee at the many cafes we have in greece, but i have never seent eh paste – since globalisation took over most of the food market, we have been able to get a lot of foreign products in greece, so i must look into this one next time i visit my high-end supermarkets (thankfully, supermarket assistnats arent that rude here)

  • May 17, 2010 10:13am

    Hello David,

    I think they have some regular training on “how to be rude to our customers” in Monoprix even in Neuilly sur Seine ;-).
    Hope to see you on Wednesday @ your book signing;

    Have a nice cloudy day,

  • Free
    May 17, 2010 10:29am

    And..saying all this came out from a Flanders TV show

  • May 17, 2010 10:39am

    and now i’m in search of a homemade recipe for it. that stuff sounds mighty tasty.

  • May 17, 2010 10:49am

    What a funny story! It makes me feel better that French supermarkets carry a product similar to Wonderbread. We’re not all perfect :)

  • absinthe
    May 17, 2010 11:13am

    After moving to Holland my kids begged me to buy speculaaspasta because their friends bring it to school on sandwiches for lunch. It’s not my cup of tea, but it is an impressive feat to make a spread that tastes almost exactly like the cookie. I tried to describe it to an American friend and said it’s as if Nabisco made a creamy spread that tasted exactly like Oreos.

  • Caroline
    May 17, 2010 11:20am

    The cookies are called Biscoff that apparently make this spread. You can buy the cookies on and here is a link for a blog that attempted a homemade version:

    Here’s the link for the US company that sells Biscoff including the spread (but sadly only individual portion cups):

    Or here’s a link for Waffle Cafe and they ship anywhere in the world:

  • Susan
    May 17, 2010 11:26am

    Per Heidi’s comment — I saw an Enquête Spéciale about how so many of those “seals of approval” are simply marketing ploys. Pay money to the organization and they’ll call you the “Taste [discovery] of the Year”. David’s Seal Of Approval, on the other hand, actually means something.

    I returned to Paris this month with firm intentions to eat slender and this does not help! Speculoos à Tartiner, Crême Salidou — how will you torment us next??

  • May 17, 2010 11:37am

    Hilarious. I would never judge what’s in your shopping bag as I’m the poster child for contradiction. I started a two week dairy, meat and sugar cleanse on Sat. My friend asked me to dinner at Pizzeria Mozza and I said, “But of course,” and my cleanse went out the window:)

  • May 17, 2010 11:39am

    ahh crème de spec. I can’t believe how long it took the french to think this one up, considering how ridiculously popular the cookies are. my french friends are obsessed (as am I) and often beg me to make pancakes because they think the two go particularly well together….
    however, one friend consumed the whole of a jar in an afternoon, and now claims she no longer likes the taste.

  • May 17, 2010 11:53am

    Laura: Yes, people are quite unfriendly to the salespeople as well (unlike at the outdoor markets, where people are more friendly to each other.) It’s sort of a cycle that perhaps needs to be broken.

    Carly: I think the product is Belgian : )

    Cyndy: That’s true that the people at that Monoprix are actually pleasant. I think the Saint-Paul one must have something in the air that makes the people particularly snide with customers.

    Laura: A friend from Switzerland was in San Francisco, going in to the subway, and he didn’t know where to buy tickets. So he asked a person wearing a Muni uniform. They guy looked at him, and said, “Can’t you see I’m off-duty, assh*le?”

    That was some welcome to America!

    Lucie: That sounds amazing. Must get some of that, too!

  • Pia Stockhausen
    May 17, 2010 12:31pm

    For ‘Tony in London’ and ‘Lisa Wines’, the cashiers in Finland also sit – there is nothing strange about it. Each country has their own customs.

  • Jill
    May 17, 2010 12:36pm

    Ah, David, I just knew we were of like minds! I have a jar of speculoos paste in my cupboard and also a number of jars of dark chocolate (pur) paste from Albert Heijn in Amsterdam. I brought home cookies every week and my husband delighted in passing them out at work. I think it is funny that Europeans turn up their noses at the thought of peanut butter, because the one cookie that everyone here disliked was filled with chocolate hazelnut paste. Currently the workforce is enjoying stroopwaffels with the dark chocolate paste and whipped cream. Don’t blame me, I just cart the stuff home.
    Now that I am finally back in Paris after a year and a half hiatus, I have been checking your blog daily and thrilled to actually be able to try the recipes and restaurants again. One of my first stops was at L’As du Falafel and my second was at Le Nemrod for the salade oeuf mollet. I think the waiter also works at Monoprix because he REFUSED TO WAIT ON US. I read somewhere that Le Nemrod is under new ownership, but this is ridiculous. I need my lardons!

  • May 17, 2010 12:57pm

    Here in Germany we get these cookies too, specially during the months before CHristmas. I love them and they are called Spekulatius here.
    But I´ve never heard of the spread. I´ll have to get a jar next time I´m in Paris.

  • Erica
    May 17, 2010 1:30pm

    I love France and I love some French people, but every time I come home from a trip there, I conclude that they are THE MOST miserable, cranky people on the face of the earth. I think they wake up, eat a lemon and then walk around all day concentrating on keeping their faces in a permanent scowl.

  • Lisa
    May 17, 2010 1:38pm

    Hi everyone,

    I can recommend a good nickname for Monoprix: “Mono-prout”.

    Prout = infantile word for ‘to fart’


  • May 17, 2010 1:42pm

    I could swear that we are on the same cosmic wavelength. I just, two days ago, went to the Biscoff website and saw this spread. I also have a packet (only 2, boohoo) of Biscoff cookies sitting on my night table, pilferred from a recent Delta flight. Where can I buy these treasures, other than from the Biscoff website? I’m thinking Cost Plus World Market. This would be just the type of product they would have. Hmmm. This is the second or third time this has happened where you post just the product I was thinking about. Last time was when you posted about Fouquet. I love your stories and can imagine them so clearly!

  • shannon
    May 17, 2010 1:50pm

    I recently ordered a few jars of Speculoos from Belgium (after enjoying speculoos-covered waffles from the Waffle Truck in New York way too much and too often), and the ingredients simply say “speculoos.” Straightforward, I guess!

  • May 17, 2010 2:14pm

    Oooh…last fall, we found some Gingerbread butter at William-Sonoma. It was mostly dairy, but it tasted just like gingersnaps and caramel. Mmmmm. I wonder if the Biscoff spread is similar!

  • mariette
    May 17, 2010 2:33pm

    The name of the paste is speculoos but the name of the dutch (not belgium) cookie is speculaas. In Holland it’s a cookie they eat with hot chocolate and especially on december 5th when it’s the feast of Sinterklaas, the dutch version of Santa Claus.

  • May 17, 2010 2:46pm

    A French lady once asked me to hold her place in line while she ran to get something she’d forgotten. Being American, I gladly held her place. C’est normal. When another man came to get in line behind me, I had the courtesy to tell him that there was already someone else, hence the UFO shopping basket in line behind me. He promptly scoffed and scooted it to the side with his shoe. Rude and gross all in one. When the lady came back, he started ranting and raving so I went ahead and told her to go ahead of me. I waited an extra 5 minutes, big deal -and the crotchety old guy still had to wait for both of us to make it through the line. So satisfying!

  • rouquinricain
    May 17, 2010 3:09pm

    maybe it’s the age (and subsequent bitterness) of the caissiers at the bigger monoprixs. i do most of my shopping at a daily monop bd de sébastopol (near the chatelet métro) and all the caissiers are student-age and on the whole, delightful, two of them even smiling (gasp) and asking how i am (double gasp).
    and i’ve tried that spéculoos pâte à tartiner – it’s REALLY good and about 600 calories / 100 grams.
    most importantly, my cheerful daily monop has started selling PHILADELPHIA CREAM CHEESE!!!

  • May 17, 2010 3:22pm

    I bought a jar when I was in Paris last month but haven’t tried it yet, was thinking about swirling it into ice cream? I thought all these stories about Monoprix were maybe exaggerated until I visited the one near Montparnasse and I was told I couldn’t buy the apple I wanted. I went the the cashier right by the fruit and veg but maybe buying just one piece of fruit was not allowed, who knows.

  • May 17, 2010 3:24pm

    Ah yes, the crunchy version! It’s even better. If you don’t believe me, believe Allison: she’s posted about the original about a year ago ( and inspired by your excellent post today, David, she’s picked up the glove and posted a follow-up about the crunchy version: :)

    Beware that, once you make the switch to the crunchy version, you’ll be hooked and there’s no going back to the original! In our house I’ve had to resort to smearing the original paste on my bread and sprinkling it with crunched-up speculoos cookies, because Allison doesn’t let me touch her crunchy paste stash – it’s too hard to get our hands on in Portland!

  • May 17, 2010 3:37pm

    Ann: I was once in line at Le Grand Épicerie, and this woman came running over and said, “I was here. I just had to run back and get something else.” I was so stunned that I didn’t say anything. Which I think is what they count on!

    rouquinricain: That’s actually my strategy when I go into places like France Telecom or whatever—I look for the young people to help me, as they’re not jaded (yet) and usually happy(-sh) to help.

    Erica: Well, the French themselves say they are the biggest complainers.

    Which, I guess, is why I fit right in! ; )

  • Sarah P
    May 17, 2010 3:38pm

    I live in Toulouse and absolutely love your blog! …tomorrow morning I am going to Monoprix to get me some of that Speculoos spread!!!

  • stephanie
    May 17, 2010 3:40pm

    I definitely agree that the Monoprix cashiers are as bad as you say, and as much as I would like to boycott them I cannot because the other options are worse with a smaller selection. I have noticed that the French women around me are pretty nasty to the cashiers and this usually quiets them down and keeps them in check….however I bet they are double nasty to the next person who dares to be meek or civil. It is not in my nature to be mean, so I just avoid eye contact and try to be impersonal. However….if they lash out at me, I am ready to give it right back to them. It’s a ‘chien mange chien’ world here and I prefer to eat than be eaten!

    See you on Wednesday at WHSmith :)

  • May 17, 2010 3:48pm

    the cashiers here are very very friendly, if you forget something they will go and get it, disappearing within the store while you wait forever at the checkout. I won’t complain about that anymore…. seems to me it could be worse.

  • sarah
    May 17, 2010 4:31pm

    Aaaaaaaand I just put 2 jars of it in my virtual cart at the Biscoff website. The set is 15% off! How can I resist??? I wonder if I can add it to a Swiss meringue buttercream?

  • Hajnal
    May 17, 2010 4:56pm

    Ah, the Monoprix cashiers. Un vrai poème! Being French and forty y-o, I’ve seen quite a few rude supermarket cashiers, but the Monoprix ones take the cake. Call me when you want to strangle them, I’ll hold their arms for you (okay, internet police, just chill, it is just a figure of speech)

    The Monoprix on Avenue d’Italie is so bad, the cashiers so slow, and rude, that I decided to boycott it – it takes me less time to walk all the way to Place d’Italie, 15 minutes away, to do my grocery shopping and come back, than go to the Monoprix that is what? 50 meters from my building?

    I can’t wait for the day when those nasty women are all replaced by self check-out. Champagne!

  • May 17, 2010 5:09pm
  • May 17, 2010 5:22pm

    I too just ordered 4 jars (I’m trusting you here), they were 15% off and then then an extra 50% off the 2nd item, so how could I pass it up? No need to deal with cashiers or trying to hunt it down in stores! thank you for the recommendation.

  • Jean Marie
    May 17, 2010 5:25pm

    The fact that cashiers here in the U.S. are generally pleasant makes me feel somewhat better about the the other fact – that I am nowhere near a place that would sell me Speculoos spread. The cashier at my local market threw a peppermint patty (!) into my bag this morning after I had paid for my groceries and then told me to have a good day.

  • May 17, 2010 5:28pm

    Oh, how I laughed! Crunchy is definitely the way to go! I couldn’t even get kids to like the smooth one…And having lived in Holland for a decade and now living in France, I can confirm that Speculaas is Dutch, and SpeculOOs is simply the Belgian spelling. Belgium and Holland were one country not that long ago, and they still share a language, more or less.

    My supermarket story: One of the first times I’d shopped at ‘my’ small Super U, I discovered to my horror that I didn’t have my wallet on me. The cashier smiled at me and said: “Don’t worry about it. You can pay the next time you come around.”

    With that, she won a shocked but loyal customer. I paid the next day. (NB: this experience may be dismissed because it didn’t happen in Paris, even if it did happen in France.)

  • Jenny
    May 17, 2010 5:46pm

    We are going to France in October and have rented an apartment. I was actually planning on doing a little grocery shopping at Monoprix so we don’t have to eat out so often. Your post made my laugh out loud! I thought the checkers in NYC were surly. I’m just wondering, don’t they take debit cards/credit cards? I don’t want to be the foreigner trying to figure out the local currency while someone elses goods are being thrown into mine because I can’t bag fast enough as I’m still trying to pay.

  • May 17, 2010 6:10pm

    I’m a bit surprised when you say your local Monoprix doesn’t carry plain yogurts. I’ve never seen a French supermarket that didn’t carry yaourts nature. I’ve been to that Saint-Paul Monoprix in the past and they did have them. Maybe you’re not looking in the right section?
    Aside from that, your local Monop is indeed a nasty one, and always has been, maybe because the cashiers are in the basement and never see the light of the day.

    And, me, I’ve been really shocked when I first moved to the US to discover that cashiers had to stand up and to bag your groceries for you. I hate having my grocery bagged, I prefer balancing the weight in various bags myself, and I’ve never managed to have a US cashier NOT double-bagging even when I request it.
    And, I feel sorry for the poor cashiers who are standing on their feet all day long.
    Cultural differences…

  • May 17, 2010 6:27pm

    It sounds like France has never heard of the saying, “The customer is always right”, and neither has Mexico. What’s with this? Do they want our business, or not?

    Today I returned a bag of salt that was priced 12 pesos on the shelf. When I got home and checked my receipt, I saw I had been charged 54 pesos. I know, I should have checked the receipt right on the spot. Anyway, I went back today, and you would have thought I was trying to hold up the store, the way management reacted. The 12 peso price was still on the shelf, which I showed to the manager, who couldn’t have cared less. Thirty minutes later, I had my money back, with bad feelings on both sides.

    I did some shopping, and when I checked out, the manager came up to the cash register, asked the teller to step aside, did some fancy finger work on the register, and presented me with my bill. I know she got her money back.

  • Christine
    May 17, 2010 7:03pm

    Oh, this was funny! And I’m going to have to look for the Speculoos creme at my local Euro supermarket (it’s small but I have one here in SoCal!) Loved the bit about getting busted for Mallomars or hot dogs in the supermarket. And then laughed all the harder when the embedded advert at the end of the post (for me at least) was for Totinos Pizza Rolls…too funny!

  • May 17, 2010 8:20pm

    “So I don’t strangle you.” That’s great! I wonder if I’ll ever be brave enough to spend an entire day saying what I’m thinking? Probably not a good idea, even on my best days.

    I currently live in fear of running into a customer at the supermarket. My wife and I have a gourmet shop selling the essentials: cheese, wine, chocolate & bread. Every now and then I get a pretty powerful craving for frozen burritos.

  • Adrien
    May 17, 2010 8:21pm

    I love your blog, and the way you write these little adventures we all had one day in Paris. But, I just want to add that there are a LOT of differences between Paris and “la province” (at all levels: prices, attitudes, habits, clothes, etc). It’s particularly true when it comes to: getting fresh fruits/vegetables/meat (so much easier in my 6k inhabitants hometown), meeting friendly cashiers (same), happy faces in the street (every person born and raised outside of Paris has been shocked by how depressed and angry people look in here…), etc
    I guess you’re aware of that, but I just wanted to be fair to 80% of the French population :)

  • May 17, 2010 8:55pm

    I just came from the supermarket.
    I was short maybe 5-7 cents.
    The (standing) cashier said, “No problem” and smiled.
    This keeps happening over and over of late, ever since we entered the recession.
    I guess they’re happy with whatever they can get!
    Last trip I ran around like a maniac look for your chocolate nouours David.
    I finally found them at Franprix and gobbled them up before I could do a post or take a picture…
    I LOVE speculas cookies so I’m deeply troubled about the spell you’ve cast – all those semi-licked spoons..

  • Madeleine
    May 17, 2010 8:58pm

    Putain de delicieux! It tastes like a creamy teddygram spread.

  • May 17, 2010 9:18pm

    how about mixing the two: the speculoos and the nutella…:-)??? In the Dutch supermarkets from the ‘ duo penotti’ brand (that mixes great hazelnut-chocolate spread a la nutella with a nice tasting vanilla-y white chocolate spread) there is the variation ‘ with speculoos’ now: chocolate, hazelnut, white AND speculoos…..YUM

  • May 17, 2010 9:30pm

    I am one of the 4 reading your blog! I love your writing and your stories. And….my entire household (and several neighbors) are addicted to your “crack” cookies! Keep on telling us about your journey!

  • May 17, 2010 9:33pm

    What I despise most about the supermarker checkers is the chatter with the incessant chatter with other checkers and baggers. Of course, in this constant stream, I invariably miss their first request for my savings card or payment. Small stuff, I know, but I really don’t want to listen to them natter on about their prom date, I just want them to put my peanut butter in the darned bag!


  • May 17, 2010 9:40pm

    Great post and I see that I’m following another one of my favorite bloggers…Hi Carol.
    I’ll have to order this from the Biscoff site, which I just realized is the supplier of the Biscoff cookie that I always get on Delta flights for my daughter.

  • sasha
    May 17, 2010 9:45pm

    About Romain’s response to your experience with trying to get change from the cashier, did you not want to kill him? Why do people feel like they need to find a solution to your problem when all you want to do (first) is vent, vent, vent.

  • AnnaZed
    May 17, 2010 10:19pm

    I feel your pain on the misery of dealing with French grocery store cashiers, but I can tell you that I actually prefer them to the weary programmed “have nice day” clerks in some American stores. They are even required to smile by management fiat, it’s grotesque.

  • May 17, 2010 10:29pm

    This was so well written. I smiled, laughed and read seriously too. Fabulous. I am heading to France next month wondering how I am going to naviagate the cashiers ordering great food and drinking great wine.

  • Carol Whitman
    May 17, 2010 10:35pm

    I think it’s that usually retail clerks in Paris like to make you suffer. The health care system is rated #1 by the World Health Organization. I came to Paris by myself, enjoying being there by myself, and then that night I slipped on a wet grate on the street, landed on my shoulder, breaking my humerus bone in two places. All the people at Hotel Dieux Hopital were kind, efficient, and put up with my Sparench-germitalian language skills. They gave me a prescription for an immoblizer splint. I went to two pharmacies before I was told, dismissively that I needed an orthopedic pharmacy. That was way across town, a long bus ride away. Found it, stood in line for a while, and showed the clerk my paper. She looked in the drawer, turned and said, “we don’t have your size” and turned and walked away. I didn’t know what she said and made her repeat. No help. I was in pain. I hated all Parisian pharmacies at that moment, but had to persevere. Walked in to the next one, almost in tears, and the woman looked at me, looked at the prescription and said “we don’t have it, but I can order it for you and it will be here tonight.” I think she said it in French and because she was so nice, I understood her. So I met my friend at Luxembourg gardens train station, we had dinner at Les Papilles, and then took a taxi across town to the pharmacy, where as promised, was my splint. They even helped me put it on. Had a marvelous time for the next two weeks, encountering nice and nasty people all over Paris. Glad I know it’s not about me personally, happens to everyone.

  • May 17, 2010 10:38pm

    Dammit dammit dammit! I saw this exact spread in Antwerp and meant to go back to the store for it at the end of my stay, but stupid other things got in the way and I didn’t and now, David, I’m going to go curl up in a ball and CRY.

  • Mark
    May 18, 2010 12:23am

    Everywhere I go in Europe cashiers either will not or don’t want to break larger bills for smaller ones…..especially here in Sicily!!! Mamma mia!

  • May 18, 2010 12:37am

    You make this sound soo good David. I really need to get my hands on this. Today is speculoos making day for me!

  • Jill Appenzeller
    May 18, 2010 1:14am

    Okay, now I will be searching the gourmet ghettos of the Bay Area for this…I wonder if they have it at the Pasta Shop? Or if I have to bribe a Parisian friend to mail me some? Oh my…

  • May 18, 2010 1:42am

    AnnaZed: I’m not a fan of the “Have a Nice Day!” robotic service, either. But I do like it when people are somewhat engaged with customers. Waiters in France are very professional, friendly, but not overtly so, and simply do their job without being intentionally disagreeable.

    sasha: No. He was right and I learned something about French culture and public service. I try not to vent to him too much, since this is his culture and for him c’est normal. But, as mentioned earlier, these things drive the French crazy, too.

    Cooking in Mexico: Interestingly, in France, they don’t hand you the change (when you get it, that is), they put it on the counter, often on a plastic tray for you. I was told they do that so you can count it discreetly, rather than if they dumped a handful of change in your palm, which you’d have to verify in a more obvious manner.

    Adrien: I know that people outside of Paris are quite different (just like folks in New York City are quite different than the people in Upstate New York.) I did a post, 8 Coping Tips for Living in Paris, as suggested that people (visitors and residents) take a trip outside of Paris as the folks are quite different. In fact, last year were went to a supermarket in the countryside and I was astounded that the prices were about 50% less than in Paris. Another benefit!

    FBC: I think it’s fine for them to sit. Especially as someone who spent 34 years standing up, working as a chef! And I don’t mind self-bagging, but it does screw up the rhythm at the checkout since you have to bag your groceries and fumble for change at the same time, while the checker sits there and watches. Or starts ringing up the next person, and mixing their groceries with yours. (I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been at the end of the conveyor, with the person behind me, trying to separate our groceries from each others.

    It’s my Franprix that doesn’t have plain yogurt, not the Monoprix. But they do have every other flavor: kiwi, coconut, lemon macaron, pistachio, chocolate…

    Anna: Well, it’s only around €2.5 here, so it wasn’t much of a risk. If you don’t like it, I’d imagine you could sell the rest on eBay!

    Jenny: Yes, they do take credit cards. Generally you need to spend €15 or more.

    Hajnal: A friend who lives near the Place d’Italie, I was talking to her about the supermarket, and she said, “Why on earth would you go to the supermarket?”

    I basically go for staples; milk, orange juice, and sugar. But it’s true, and I think that’s the reason that the outdoor markets continue to flourish in Paris, because the merchants are much friendlier and it’s a far more enjoyable way to shop.

  • Ksenia
    May 18, 2010 1:45am

    I laughed a lot with your post :) It one of the things I like the most about your blog: it makes me smile. It also makes me remember the week I spent in Paris some years ago :D

    I was surprised to read about the unpolite cashiers, because I had the completely opposite impression. We didn’t spend too much time in supermarkets, and we didn’t meet to many cashiers either, so maybe we were just lucky to find a polite ones.

    Maybe my perception was altered too, because I was so happy to spend a week far away from my parents and skip school that everything seemed wonderful to me (except for the prices of the vegetables. Being a vegan, I would be already ruined if I lived in Paris….)

    Maybe I was also unconsciously comparing the cashiers from Paris with the cashiers from Moscow, and then I can assure you: your guys from Paris will look like the most polite and friendly in the world.

  • Taipan
    May 18, 2010 2:45am

    I don’t mind if the cashiers at Monoprix or Franprix are rude or unhelpful, but I detest being cheated when I buy something from the butcher at the Franprix yesterday! The price tag clearly says “travers” (ribs) costs 5.59€ a kilo but when I got the couple of pieces weighed, packed and price tagged, it showed a per kilo price of 8.90€. I don’t know enough French to argue with the guy – he knows I don’t speak French well and I already had trouble asking for it! So, people, don’t just read the food labels, read the price tags, and read the cashier’s receipt that comes with your change, better yet, count your change! I bought something which was discounted the other day from the same Franprix but upon checking the receipt on the way out, they had charged me the full price. Now, would I dare go face the cashier and ask for a refund! Maybe the French readers should give us Americianne a lesson on how to deal with those cashiers and butchers! I love Paris and have great French friends, and I would come back year after year to enjoy the great food – I suppose I have to take the good with the not so good! Viva la France!

  • May 18, 2010 2:55am

    Taipan: I never, ever, ever buy anything that’s on sale or on ‘promotion’ at the supermarket without passing it under the machine that reads the bar code, and lets you know the price, before I hit the check-out stand.

    Just about every supermarket has what they call, I think, a vérificateur and you can wave the bar code under it and it’ll tell you the price. I’ve had too many disagreements with cashiers about items being rung up at the wrong price, and it’s much easier just to check before I get to the cashier.

    (Manufacturer’s are on to this too, and often have packaging that gives you 15% more rather than rely on the supermarkets to apply a discounted price.)

  • May 18, 2010 3:03am

    I think you really need to get out to the countryside more :-0 My supermarket staff here in the Touraine du Sud are charming. I once bought something large and heavy and said I would pay for it and take it to the car then come back and go round for my groceries. The cashier said don’t worry, she would just take the bar code off the item, I could then load it into the car and pay when I came through with my groceries. I could easily have just driven off with it and never come back.

    The same supermarket gave me a sample of the Speculoos paste. I’m afraid it just tasted like raw spicy biscuit paste. Nothing special, not addictive. I adore the biscuits themselves, but for me Nutella or Dulce Leche is much better straight out of the jar. BTW, yesterday I was introduced to Sirop de Liege. If you ever need an injection of sugar, that’s the stuff to use!

  • May 18, 2010 3:14am

    You can find speculoos cookies in American supermarkets under the alias “Dutch windmill” cookies.

  • Hajnal
    May 18, 2010 3:42am

    David, you are absolutely right about the reason markets are always popular with Parisians. The market on Avenue d’Italie is packed on sundays and thursdays, and the Monoprix is empty during market hours. The market is where I buy all my vegetable, fruit and cheese, and I go to the supermarket only for non-food stuff.

    Most people in my building have given up on the Monoprix because of the prices (on average 20% more expensive than other supermarkets in the area) and the generally disgusting attitude towards clients (yeah, I am looking at you, bald gum-chewing midget on platform shoes). Hopefully someday, the supermarket management will get it: it is not normal to have to wait 20 minutes at the cashier when you are only the third person in line.

  • May 18, 2010 3:56am

    I have a bit of an unhealthy obsession with speculoos. I am no longer allowed to purchase it and bring into my home because I will go through it with a spoon in a day and although that sounds good, my bum is not too fond of such impulsive eating decisions.

    People often offer to get me some because they know I go nuts for it, but I just live vicariously through others, like you, who share my love for this Belgian gem. Far better than nutella!

  • May 18, 2010 4:26am

    I’m with the Speculoos Ice Cream gang… Cant wait!!! (trés American exclamation marks). I remember tasting the complimentary biscuits with coffee in Greece of all places and then once again in Paris. If I recall I too exclaimed something along the lines of “Oh la vâche.” Ah, what sweet memories revived, merci.


  • Andrea
    May 18, 2010 4:35am

    OMG – I just found a website in the UK that sells Speculoos a Tartiner by mail order and I’ll place an order as soon as I’ve finished this mail. It’ll be my undoing as I LOVE speculoos.
    A friend just brought me a Zoku pop maker from the States, am looking forward to making a spekuloos ice cream lolly.

    Luckily I almost never come across a surly cashier in any of the supermarkets I use and most will have a nice smile, be very helpful and even involve you in a little chat about the weather or comment on some unusual ingredient in your trolley. Maybe that’s because Brighton has such good vibes and people seem to genuinely like living by the sea, no matter what they do for a living.

    Many years ago whilst still a student in Germany barcode scanning had not been introduced at my local Aldi. The checkout girls had to know the price of every single item in the store BY HEART (!) and I swear, it was impossible to beat them speedwise. I don’t think I ever managed to match my bag packing to their checkout speed and I’m pretty fast. I bet they don’t reminisce about ‘the good old days’.

    Thanks for your great post David! Please invent spekuloos recipes!!

  • May 18, 2010 4:39am

    Eleanora (et al): The problem with creating an ice cream with this is that it’s not easily available elsewhere. (Like my Pistachio Gelato recipe.) And if it is, it may be rather pricey. So if folks come to Europe, it is worth trying out a jar. Or two.

    It is an intriguing idea, though, and I might just churn up a batch or two myself, and perhaps report back…

    Carol: That’s unusual because the pharmacists are usually really nice and helpful, although I’m certain there are exceptions.

    I did bring a guest from the United States to a pharmacy who wasn’t feeling well and the pharmacist spent about ten minutes asking her a lot of questions, and figuring out the right medication to give her. When the pharmacist was done, she went in the back and brought out a remedy. The guest looked at her, then briskly said, “No thank you”, and was ready to go.

    The pharmacist gave me a look, like “Wtf?” Perhaps it was the same one, and she remembered that experience! ; )

  • Tuti
    May 18, 2010 5:15am

    I love this on my slice of brioche in the morning. It’s my 2nd favorite after Nutella! You can also get the crispy kind in Holland, but I haven’t tried it yet…

  • melen
    May 18, 2010 5:28am

    We have these cookies in Taiwan but I never knew there was a spread, too! I am definitely going to keep my eyes open for it.

  • May 18, 2010 5:49am

    ice cream is not the only thing you could make with this. I think about putting some of this paste under pears or apples slices, upon a pastry shell or inside a puff pastry ?
    In fact I think it could have the same uses as dulce de leche ?

  • granuaile
    May 18, 2010 6:11am

    Oh the French! Some are so incredibly French!

    As a Dutchie I am proud to say that speculoos (=French, Dutch = speculaas) is a threat from Belgium and the Netherlands. (Flanders was part of the Netherlands until they started a riot in a theatre.)

    David, are you familiar with the sort of smaller version, which are as big as a 1 Euro coin: Kruidnoten (“ginger nuts”)? These are highly addictive! I always “have to” eat them in a “good amount”. Like 2 or 10 or 15. 16 is even better! ;)

    My dad (son of a boulanger) taught me to eat the speculaas cookies on my bread.

    Kruidnoten & speculaas are readily available around Sinterklaas. = Saint Nicolas. What is celebrated on/around Dec 05. My favourite holiday!

    Most of the time the cookies are on the shelfs no later then September. You can also find them in some parts of Germany where they also celebrate Sinterklaas.

    I have not tried the spread yet, but will. Until then I will eat my bread with the speculaas cookies! :)

  • kathleen
    May 18, 2010 8:15am

    Such a well-timed post! I was trying to explain speculoos to a dear friend last night. I tried to explain it as a cross between nutella and gingerbread dough, but I think it just left my friend slightly grossed out.

    @ Tuti- crispy kind of speculoos? Where do you get that? Albert Hein?

    @granuaile- I live in NL as well and LOVE kruidnoten as well and when I’m feeling naughty- the chocolate covered ones!

  • camichka
    May 18, 2010 8:53am

    First comment here, but I read your blog for some time now…As a french person, I find it very funny to read about Paris from your point of view! Especially as living in Brittany, I have been to Paris only once, and I remember, being a child, that I disliked that big grey and noisy city…

    Not that I would like to live there even now, I prefer my small town where cashier are nice and polite, even in hard-discount stores(!), but I sometimes dream to come to Paris to buy half the products of G.Detou store!

    As for the speculoos pasta, I was offered some by Belgian friends, but I don’t know what to do of this over-sweet thing, want me to send it to you ? Actually, I’m not a fan of the speculoos cookies either, but i could kill for some “roudor” !

  • May 18, 2010 8:53am

    As a health professional turned student of la langue française I so enjoy reading your blog! I have had 9 months full of my very own Welcome To France moments and find such humor and relief knowing I am not the only one. In fact, today has been an I-Hate-the-Learning-a-New-Language-Process day, so I turned to your blog for some respite.

    I’m so thrilled that you’ve been able to experience the joy-in-a-jar we all call Speculoos! But more than that, I just wanted to acknowledge your efforts and thank you for your one-man-grève with monoprix . . . I recently decided it was time to end mine with my local poste . . . and like you, I’m pretty sure I was the only one affected.

    So here’s to the hope of being a pas très americaine à Paris!

  • May 18, 2010 9:24am

    I have been obsessing over pâte à tartiner these last few days, anod now I see this!
    If I may throw in my two-cent, my experience dealing with the French has taught me that a) if they yell at you, yell louder (they really respect that)
    b) if they are rude, tell them how it makes you feel and that they should be ashamed of themselves (it won’t make them ashamed, but they will respect you)
    In my humble opinion, the worst thing is to act like a polite civilized human being that your mother taught you to be for 20 years.
    I remember yelling out of the top of my lungs at a bus driver who swerved too brusquely off a curb when I was 6 months pregnant; yelling back at a rude lady at the Fontainebleau castle (she later loved me) etc etc etc
    Forgive me, but I had to write this; your post hit a soft nerve.

  • Caitlin
    May 18, 2010 10:57am

    When I go to France in November I’m bringing an extra bag for speculoos spread and other food. But mostly for speculoos.

  • Lisa in Seattle
    May 18, 2010 11:32am

    Apologies if this is already addressed in the above comments – I can’t pause to read them because my baby is making the face that immediately precedes her wail for food (akin to a civil service tornado warning). Why are Parisiennes in the service industry rude? And, maybe more importantly, do they think they are rude?

  • Aamy
    May 18, 2010 11:36am

    Yuk. I can’t believe you like it! I worship the Speculoo as a cookie. I received a free jar from a food salesman. My kids love it.

  • May 18, 2010 1:45pm

    When I saw the title of this post in my email I thought…What the?

    Then I was hooked all the way through and I laughed out loud several times. And then I found myself reading the comments, which are also entertaining.

    And then I realized it was a work day, so I didn’t get through all 123.

    Superb job on the story and on eliciting such good responses, David. Made my morning.

  • Kristine
    May 18, 2010 2:35pm

    I discovered speculoos when I was a college student doing a year abroad and have never understood how they haven’t caught on in the States. Whenever I travel to Europe now I always stock up on as many packages I can fit in my suitcase. Now, it seems I will have to make room for Speculoos a Tartiner as well! I think I may need to start bringing an extra suitcase….

  • May 18, 2010 2:51pm

    Hmm…a super-market in Florida??? Was it Publix, perhaps? They will bend over backwards for you, there. :D Nice to know… Also, FYI, Apple and Google are already trying to take over the world. But patience is a virtue, you know. First they have to rip everyone’s money and private info, then they can defeat Microsoft! :) Tres Tongue-in-Check :D

  • pitterpatter4
    May 18, 2010 6:14pm


    My daughter & I discovered Biscoff spread a couple of months ago after watching a Throwdown with Bobby Flay….when we saw the tasty spread oozing on a freshly made waffle, we paused the show & shoved each other to get to google to find some.

    Luckily, we were successful & ordered off the “official site” scarcely able to live while for waiting for the UPS truck. Of course, *you* know how worth the wait it was! The day it was delivered, we reordered. How could we be without a supply?!

    Our favorite way to eat it is slightly melted & using Biscoff cookies (shockingly available at Wal-mart!) as spoons. The trouble is, we have to hide it from each other which means I am ever tempted to get into her jar & she’s struggling to resist mine….


  • Amy W
    May 18, 2010 9:11pm

    I just finished your ‘Paris’ book in one sitting! And currently, the carnitas recipe from that book is crisping away in my oven. Thank you for writing such a humorous account of living abroad, cooking, and keeping your sanity. My first five minutes in Paris in the Gare du Nord involved being cussed out in French for using the elevator with my 60 year old mother and our luggage! (the escalator was broken!) Little did she know, I speak French so I gave her the ‘what for’. Every moment after that was bliss and the kind patisserie owner near my hotel always said a chirpy tres bien! when I would order with my horrific accent. I truly enjoy your writing, and you have inspired me to be creative again in the kitchen.
    Amy W in Phoenix,AZ

  • Princees Van Kuver
    May 18, 2010 9:51pm

    Monoprix is not one of my fond memories from my recent and first visit to Paris. I looked for Speculoos butter but couldn’t find it. Wish I’d known about this spread before I left, sounds diving.
    As for colonoscopies, they are free here in Canada, too. I had one this Friday, two weeks after my return from Paris. No madeleines, though, just a nice cold glass of (free) OJ!

  • Regina Carlisle
    May 18, 2010 9:59pm

    Forgive me if this is already been said, but I am in the States and just received two jars of Speculoos spread through The site is deceiving; looks like they only sell single serve, but you can in fact buy them in the jar. However, you must order two jars at a time. They often have e-mail promotions for reduced shipping, etc, so I suggest that you sign up for their e-mail blasts. Type in “spread” in the search engine on the site – currently they are running a special of 15% off for 2 jars.

    I asked the company (Lotus) that imports the spread and cookies…they do not sell the spread in any U.S. stores, you must order it online. I first discovered it in New York at the Wafels & Dinges truck. They put speculoos on a fresh Liege wafel and it was heavenly!

  • Connie
    May 18, 2010 10:42pm

    Oh la vache… that you would want a colonoscopy! What a delightful and hilarious post!

  • May 19, 2010 3:36am

    So funny! Some spanish banks are like that too. Try paying the electricity bill or a tax here, it’s crazy. You get sent the bill, you have to go to the bank to pay it, but only on certain days of the week and between certain hours and you can’t pay it BEFORE a date printed on the bill….the list goes on. I’m convinced they make it as difficult as possible to make you pay by direct debit! Very often you have to go to a specific bank too.
    Regarding your shopping in the USA, I have only just found out that along with chocolate chips you can get mint chips there. Ooooooh, I can hardly wait, we have a visitor from the US soon and I’m hoping my hints have landed with a thud and I may just get some! I adore baking, actually addicted to it and really envy all those lovely goodies so easily available in the US that are not here in Europe (at least not without a huge price tag and hours of travelling!)

    (David – posted a yummy celebration carrot cake on my site you may like – please take a look!)

  • Christopher
    May 19, 2010 4:02am

    We’ve been visiting Paris and the french countryside for years and have had all kinds of interactions, both wonderful and horribly wrong. For the latter our Parisian friends have recently given us the acronym to descibe the situation:

    FWAG. France Wins AGain. Use it in all siituations when the attitude, incompetence or antiquated rules leave you helpless!

  • May 19, 2010 4:14am

    This totally warranted rant against the Monoprix’s lack of customer service reminded me of a friend who’s fully bilingual (French mom, American dad) and who has a very unusual sense of humor. He’s noticed that the French are very predictable. They say bonjour when they enter, au revoir when they exit and they eat at the same time every day. In an effort to snap them out of their monotony, he has a tendancy to say the most ridiculous things, just to shake them up. Best of all, he somehow manages to keep a straight face while doing this. His favorite game to play after waiting in line at Monoprix is to ask the cashier why everything in his shopping basket isn’t the same price, because the store’s name is Monoprix and therefore everything should cost the same, n’est-ce pas? They find this completley unsettling and yet he never cracks a smile. Then again, maybe this is why the cashiers are all so grouchy?

  • May 19, 2010 4:29am

    Going to the top of my list for groceries to bring back when I visit. Oof, your story about the Monoprix cashiers brought back so many bad memories. They’re not much better in Berlin, but I do my best to grin at them Cheshire-Cat style and that usually surprises them so much they just smile back. HA! Tricked you.

  • Victoria
    May 19, 2010 6:18am

    Maybe it’s just me…

    …but the Speculoos à tartiner I’m currently eating off my spoon brings back strong memories of cinnamon teddy grahams! (just in creamy blended form).

    See you at the book signing tonight!

  • May 19, 2010 6:21am

    Oh, this reminds me of when I moved from the midwest to Miami Beach, where people are rude and there is not really such a thing as customer service. And then I took my first trip back to the midwest and almost had a heart attack when someone said hello to me at a store and asked if I needed any help. With a smile, like they were actually happy to help. Like wow! And then they told me I was welcome when I thanked them. Just–wow.

    Which led me to move to nicer territory eventually. I don’t know how you do it, but then again, it must be something like the benefits outweighing everything else.

  • May 19, 2010 6:32am

    Kristina: Interestingly, the supermarket where I was at with Romain was in Florida, at Publix!

    The people in Paris, like most big cities, are a big mix. There’s nice, and not-so-nice people. (The cashiers at the Monoprix in the Marais fall into the second category.) But I do recall in the states, being given the same run-around by my health insurance company, with arcane rules and procedures that made absolutely no sense at all.

    Yet there was a wave of support to keep them in charge of the health care system in America, which I found interesting. If I could vote the cashiers at Monoprix out of power, I certainly would. And I don’t think I’d be alone.

    Connie: I didn’t want it, it’s just that they’re recommended for everyone over 50 and they are offered free in France, likely because it’s less-expensive (and better!) to diagnose any problems early one. The only thing I wasn’t prepared for was drinking 4 liters of that vile liquid the night before to ‘prepare’.

    And being in a full waiting room with others, who’d done the same thing the night before wasn’t much fun either, since there was only one restroom for all of us.


    Ann: I had a friend who is paralyzed from the neck down, who uses a wheelchair, and arrived via the Eurostar. Of course, the elevator at the Gare du Nord was broken. (And this was over 3 years ago, but I’m sure they’re getting around to fixing it, um, shortly…) I also thought it’d be fun for her to take the métro, since the line #14 is supposedly wheelchair-accessible. Well, we made it down there in a functioning elevator, but every other station we tried to exit from, the elevator was broken.

    Thankfully there were some security guards down there to help. Except they were more interested in helping the Swedish girl tourists, who they were talking up, instead of us.

  • astheroshe
    May 19, 2010 6:52am

    I ordered two jars @ 2 months ago off the LOTUS website….they are perfect!

  • Arielle
    May 19, 2010 9:05am

    They also sell speculoos chocolate bars here in Belgium (both dark and milk varieties). I’ve used the paste and chopped bits of the bars as well in cookies and blondies. It is fantastic.

  • May 19, 2010 9:09am

    Arielle: Hmm…might be interesting to swap it out in peanut butter cookies. Something else to try!

  • Jennifer
    May 19, 2010 1:15pm

    Re your last comment:

    Hang on a minute! Speculaas/oos ARE cookies. Now you are thinking of using a speculaas cookie derived paste to make speculaas flavoured cookies?

    Ah, but of course! Then you sell them back to the Belgians and Dutch – rebranded!

  • olivia
    May 19, 2010 1:23pm

    One of the pharmacies in Montreal is Pharmaprix. My friends and I used to speak in a french-english-anglicized-french melange, so we’d call it “Pharma Pricks.” I imagine that if there had been a Monoprix, it would have been dubbed “Monde au Pricks,” which seems rather apt after reading your post!

  • Susan
    May 19, 2010 5:10pm

    This post brought back the whole ‘fun’ experience of shopping in French supermarkets. A tip you may have already tried: a French friend once advised me to start out polite and friendly, and if that doesn’t work on a French service person, turn on them and become imperious and nasty and put them in their place quickly, with a short quip along the lines of ‘Hey, watch it miss, I’m the customer here, just who do you think you’re dealing with?’

    En francais, ‘Attention, mlle, JE suis le CLIENT ici. Un peu de politesse et service, svp!” My friend is very warm and friendly, but can pull the ‘aristocrat’ card at will—and does. She says Americans are just entirely too sweet and easily cowed. The personnel at places like Monoprix will bully if they are able because they are so powerless in the other parts of their lives. So….the only solution is to let them know they can’t get away with it.

    I’ve only had to employ this strategy once or twice, but believe me it worked,
    and it worked instantly. Smiles and kindness all around in mere seconds.
    Class distinctions exist to this day in France, and it seems everybody is more comfortable when they operate within known norms. It’s silly and pretty hard to have to play the heavy just to get decent service, but as others have said—cultural differences.

  • Mary Chris
    May 19, 2010 5:55pm

    This stuff is like crack.

    I first tasted it last summer when I was with some French friends and they gave me a jar to bring home. Unfortunately, I had it in my carryon bag so it wouldn’t break, and I was one of the people chosen to get their bag completely searched. It never occurred to me that this would be prohibited, so when the French security guy took one look at the jar and threw it into the trash I almost leapt over the counter and strangled him.

    I ended up getting several jars online and no matter how well I hide them from myself I end up sitting there with the jar and a spoon and it doesn’t last long!

  • Sunny
    May 20, 2010 3:51am

    I must have picked up the wrong stuff…couldn’t find Lotus brand,so bought another Dutch brand.

    It’s the pleh. It looks like peanut butter, not caramelly (yes, that’s a word) like yours in the picture, and it tastes like cookie dough…which is okay for some cookies, but for speculoos, it’s just sweetened mud.

    Tried it on toast this morning. Pleh again.

    My Monoprix people (because there are a couple of young men, too) are anywhere from neutral to total sweethearts. The Monoprix is across a narrow street from the market hall, so the place is crawling with people on market day. The entryway is lined with shopping bags and loaded trolleys, and the security guy dutifully watches over all…he knows who belongs to which bags, and he’s not going to let anybody touch your asparagus! I think I’ll buy them all flowers this afternoon in thanks.

  • May 20, 2010 6:09am

    You know what? I would LOVE to see Larry David facing one of those Monoprix cashier in a Curb Your Enthusiasm episode.

  • May 20, 2010 11:22am

    I moved from the midwest to Miami Beach

    I lived in Miami for two years, then moved to Cedar Rapids, Iowa, where I almost dropped dead because people stopped when the traffic light was red, returned their grocery carts to the store instead of leaving them to roam aimlessly in the parking lot, and smiled and said “hello” in the store. There was no litter, no graffiti, and no burglar bars.

    But I love Miami for all its craziness and its excellent food, so there you go. Plus I speak Spanish, so I was able to figure out what was going on pretty quickly. Nothing like being a blue-eyed blonde who speaks to the cashier in Spanish to command instant suspicion. That’s OK – I wanted them to be afraid of me.