French Food Stamps

stamps

La Poste takes a lot of knocks. But one of the differences I’ve noticed between France and America is that the public services work a lot better than the private ones here. Part of it, I think, is that the French identity is very well wrapped-up in its vast network of public service programs. And if you’ve read about the rash of the unfortunate suicides by long-time France Telecom employees, it’s been noted that many of them may have become depressed when their employer became more of a commercial (and commercially viable) enterprise than a public service one.

(French Residents: I’ll let those of you insert your experiences with France Telecom here, old and new…)

I had to send an urgent letter today back to the states and went to the post office near the busy place de l’Opéra. You would think that would be the last place to find a nearly deserted post office, but when I walked in, two women greeted me at the door and asked me what they could do to help me. For a moment, I wanted to step back outside and make sure I hadn’t stopped into the Apple Store by accident.

french stamps

Around a year ago La Poste changed and installed machines to sell stamps and postage, along with a promise that no one would not have to wait more than five minutes for service. Some of my French friends grumbled that the post office was becoming too-slick and “un commerce” but when I pointed out that they were sticking to their word about getting you in and out of there quickly (and, French residents, we all remember those incredible lines just to buy a stamp or to pick up a letter), virtually all the grousing came to a halt.

french food stamps

After the two women efficiently took care of me, we chatted a bit and because I didn’t want to leave (like, ever—) I asked if they had any interesting stamps, especially those with food on them. They hauled out the notebook and, of course, these immediately caught my eye. And, of course, I bought three booklets of them. Because of my petite accent, they made sure – three times – that I knew these were only for mailing letters in France. But silly them, surely they didn’t think I was actually going to use these stamps for mailing anything, did they?

aoste ham

They’re part of a series called La France Comme J’aime which honors “les saveurs de nos regions”, or “the tastes of our regions.” The carnet of stamps doesn’t stop at being sticky souvenirs of French cuisine, the booklet includes an interview with a Basque chef, recipes for Endive and Ham Gratin, Cherry Clafoutis, and a vegetarian write-up for a tian of vegetables, which they point out a few times is végétarian along with a page of suggested French foods that are vegetarian, just in case we didn’t get it.

(Maybe they are giving égalité for the stamps they issued a few years back that featured the various breeds and races of cows in France. Like many French people, Romain has an affinity for cows and was elated, and asked me which breed was my favorite. I felt a little embarrassed because I never really gave it much thought. But I told him I would get back to him on that.)

coupon

I probably won’t take them up on the “Buy One, Get One Free” offer from the startlingly dismal restaurants that are the sole places to eat on the French autoroutes. But the coupon for 80 cents off on ham, well, I don’t see the harm in taking them up on that. (Wouldn’t want to be rude, you know.) And if any one of the people in my post office ever considering ending it all, I’ll be there to talk them off the ledge. In fact, the only jumping for anything around here I could imagine is for these stamps.


Related Links

L’enfer de Numéricable

Should I Move to France? (28 Questions to Ask Yourself)

WTF

Les timbes au chocolat

5 Absolute, Surefire Ways to Get Rich in France

La Poste Boutique (in English)

La Poste Boutique

76 comments

  • ooh i wish they had those when i was living there. i would have totally bought some to do some sort of project. want to do a giveaway?? haha.

  • Those are worth collecting…and the food looks much better than your average Aldi’s score in the US

  • I bought those too! We still have the bad old-fashioned lines, however, out here in the countryside. And the cashiers are, how shall I put it…characterielles. (Full of character–a a handful.)

  • Yes, the post office in Paris. Fond memories, when I was waiting patiently for my money to arrive via La Poste. Those suspicious looks they gave me.
    The reluctance to hand over the cash to this jeune homme….time flies.

  • I have the cow stamps issued a little while ago – I didn’t realize it was a thing for my countrymen to like cows, but I am certainly quite partial. And I’m also a [lapsing] stamp collector, although I’ve found that Americans consider that a weird activity.

    • Sophie: I see how many people crowd around the cows at the Salon d’Agriculture and it seems there are lots of depictions of cows in France, especially (of course) in the boucheries and restaurants featuring steak-frites. I don’t know any stamp collectors in America (nor do I know any here in France), but I suspect it’s still popular activity in both places. In fact, I think I’ve started my own collection! : )

  • Gorgeous stamps! Thanks. I never have figured out La Poste, always had to budget hours when I actually had to go to the bureau. http://www.audefrance.com/2006/12/playing_post_of/

    Our postman was terrific. I sold my house in a small village in the Aude and bought another house on a wine domain about 10 minutes away. Before I moved the postman said ” Don;t worry about getting your mail after you move, I’m your postman there too”. that was before I told anyone where I’d bought!

    My neighbour was pregnant but not telling anyone. One morning the postman asked me if she was expecting. I said yes but that she wasn’t telling anyone yet. I asked him how he knew and he said that he knew everything, he was the postman.

  • Remember those scented chocolate stamps from a couple of years ago?

  • I thought those were food stamps as in tickets to get food for low income families… I thought, “How interesting, and a strange choice but so pretty!” But I assume France has a more advanced method than sticky little stamps for helping out it’s disadvantaged? Anyway, the food postal stamps are quite lovely and I am now curious about yet another French social program…

  • j’adore ! i say, if you have to buy stamps, why not get a fun themed one, instead of the boring default one the post office gives you. i love checking out the stamp desk here in zürich for new editions, and i make sure to get one extra – that won’t end up on an envelope. no surprise that there has been cheese, chocolate, potatoes, heidi and her goat,… right now there’s one for fasnacht (carnival). oh, i even have a few astérix stamps from france, and of course those chocolate ones that (sorta) smelled like chocolate. looks like i have to call my belle-mère to send me some stamps ! thanks for sharing.

  • Hey, I have those stamps. Got them about a month ago. My little French Post Office is good about carrying the “pretty” stamps.

  • Years ago, I was waiting in line at a post office near Montparnasse when I heard the most interesting phrase “Ca n’va pas la tête?!!! A clerk yelled that at a customer and I thought, “Only in Paris.” :)

    PS The US has some fun ones, too. But I’ve never seen coupons or recipes with the booklets. J’aime.

  • So have you picked your favourite breed of cow yet? ;)

  • Makes our generic American flag stamps only fit for paying bills. Minnesota has an affinity for cows but not enough to put them on stamps. What would the USA have? Fast food?

  • Just another reason why I love the French…even there stamps look good!

  • I LOVE the Paris post office! They even have books to browse while you wait for your number to be called at the rue Cler branch.
    AND designer scarves and all manner of appealing postal products just as good as the Met Art museum shop.
    I’m tempted by those bikers jackets though I don’t ride….
    And the little yellow postal vans…
    These stamps are terrific!

  • I want to go to France and send letters to French people.

  • Wow! They look wonderful! Thank you for this precious information! I will go tomorrow to the French post office to get at least one of each! (I live close to the border). And of course, like you, I have no intention of using them. I was as taken aback as you when in December I first entered my freshly renovated tiny post office. I would have never suspected such a change! Whenever I go there I am taken care of by two or three people, and when I send something weird or complicated, the older share some useful tricks or precious advice, the younger act quickly, all of them smile… It has really become a real pleasure! And the employees look as if they liked the change too. (By the way, do you now “jambon d’Aoste” doesn’t come from Aoste, or Aosta, in Italy? I have learnt the cunning producer made a fortune producing ham in a French city called Aoste, which bears the same name as the French translation of the Italian Aosta, famous for its cured ham… Apparently most clients think the ham comes from Italy… (or had thought before they saw the same tv programme ;-)

  • David, when I was on Paris in May of 2009, La Poste came out with “chocolate” stamps! I remember the employee at the local Tabac shop was just giddy showing me them. The smell was fantastic! I only regret not buying some to take back to the states. Now if they could only make these stamps smell like their picture, although, I am not sure if smelling some of the strong cheeses would help sales! Maybe the smell of a nice a buttery croissant would be better!

  • I would like to start out by saying that I am a HUGE fan of the post office. I’ve been fascinated with mail and postage since I was a child and still get a kick out of discovering I’ve received correspondence by post. I think the post office is a wondrous little place!

    I visited Paris for the first time a few years ago and was looking for an obscure little shop, but couldn’t find the street on which it was located. I had three different maps that I consulted with spy-like discretion and still could not find it, so I did what I thought seemed like a brilliant solution. I found myself standing in front of a post office and decided to walk in to ask someone where the street was!

    That didn’t work out. At all.

    I still don’t know what went wrong. To this day I find the post offices in Paris to be the most intimidating places on the earth.

  • I love those stamps and hope I can find some when I cross the pond in a few weeks.

  • I my opinion, the post office’s transformation is nothing short of miraculous. As I was growing up, going to the post office was an ordeal that could ruin a perfectly nice saturday – the only day my parents could go since they both worked full time.
    Two years ago, I came home and sent some christmas gifts in life 5 mins top. This was CHRISTMAS, as in the worst time ever to send anything. The people were also nice and efficient. My whole childhood had just disappeared into flames – for the better.

    Love the stamps! They are making me crave quenelles, which are not a popular dish around here in Canada. Any idea if I can make those myself?

  • Those are soo cool, why can’t we have those?

  • haha how funny! Are they scatch and sniff too?

  • Very funny post David. I loved those stamp machines – possibly the most efficient thing in Paris. They are even multi-lingual! Ditto what Glenn said – those chocolat stamps were la cerise sur le gateau!

  • ughh, typo – meant scratch and sniff

  • The artwork is darling.
    LL

  • I’m quite fond of cows – part of my UC Davis ag college heritage – we even have a cheer that begins, “Bos-sy Cow, Cow!” – you probably had to be there.
    Love the petite food portraits on the stamps, too! Little works of art….random acts of beauty to scatter.

  • I have a new-style and and old-style post office within walking distance of my apartment–guess which I prefer to visit? Only problem is that packages must be picked up from the old-style one.
    Must ask those cheerful and friendly Le Poste employees about the “food stamps” Thanks for the tip, David!

  • Love these – especially the illustrated ones with the clafoutis. Just gorgeous.

    I wish stamps like these were offered where I live!

  • I really love those stamps! I think they would make beautiful artwork for the kitchen…any idea how to get them blown up to poster-size?

  • Wow what amazingly beautiful stamps! Great post.

  • chouette!

  • I’ve noticed that it takes the same amount of time to be served if the post office is empty as when it is full, about 20 minutes, a French person explained it to me, they just go slower when there’s fewer people….

  • David, I’ve been reading (and thoroughly enjoying) your blog since just after I moved from LA to Paris six months ago, and I want to thank you for helping me laugh at the crazy bureaucracy I’ve run into.

    I guess I arrived too late to experience the old-style post offices (though it seems there are still a few around?) but even without the comparison, I have been very impressed with the Parisian post offices, especially compared with the ones I dealt with in LA (ugh). I think successfully mailing a package was one of the first things I accomplished in French; it made my whole day.

  • The fact that they improved La poste in France gives me hopes for the Italian one: though they did go through the visual revamp, in Italy la Posta is still embarassing inefficient.
    But in order to achieve that, did you have to go through …. chocolate smelling stamps ? Did I get it right from the comments?
    Maybe I’ll stick to my inefficiency after all… it gives you an unrivalled opportunity for some anthropological studies.

  • Oooh, WANT!

    And also, want to live in a place where they honor food on stamps. Though the U.S. did put out an excellent series on insects a few years ago…

  • I love your Apple store analogy! I love going to that place just for the great service, even though I’m talking about Montreal where 99.9% of the time you’re greeted with a smile (especially if you smile first).

  • Those are so gorgeous, David. Wouldn’t it be cool if the US did a series of stamps on food as well? I wonder how they would choose. Let’s see, GMO corn from Iowa, salmon from Washington, Pinot from Oregon, grits from Mississippi..it would be fun to figure it out. Or would it be based on famous restaurants? That could get touchy.

  • Such cute stamps! I should buy them the next time I visit. And now I think I should go down to my local post office and see if they have any food stamps.. I hope they do.

    David, I can’t thank you enough for the 10,000 word post on food blogging. Appreciate the time and effort you’ve put in for it. Thank you!

  • Love the stamps – and I feel I must add my agreement with Shaheen’s post. That food-blogging piece was great, and I think I speak for a lot of your readers when I say that we really love your work on all of its many levels. Thanks for everything!

  • They still have the old school post offices in Italy where everything is done- banking, haircuts, the whole shebang, and I avoid it like the plague. There’s no worse way I could think of spending my (whole) morning! I’m glad France has made such strides since I lived there. Maybe their advancements will rub off on Italia. I think i’d prefer they start with picking up their own litter and dog (you know what). Lovely stamps!!!

  • Not seeing a trip to France in the near future, I did the modern thing and found an online source. I wonder if stamp sellers will have an unexpected rush on them? I love the bold colors and can see framing them to add splashes of color to the kitchen walls.

  • I MUST buy these for my mother. She will absolutely flip. That line about food-loving, philatelic, francophiles? That’s her. :) Thanks!

  • Lovely stamps. And I am intrigued by the dish mentioned in the booklet, ham and endive gratin. Perhaps you could post a recipe, or at least a description? Tell me it doesn’t have potatoes! I would love a gratin recipe without potatoes.

  • Fun post as usual, David. Thanks for yeat another charming peek into into the French life.

    Please tell Germain one of your American fans loves Jerseys. They are pertty, they have lovely dispositions and they have the best milk for – yeah – ice cream. You should get to know one :-). Truly there is nothing lovlier than resting ones forehead against her side as you milk her in the warm sun.

  • So funny, as I was thinking: they have FOOD STAMPS in France???!!! You know, like what is given out in the US to poor people. (Which is so odd too, I mean why can they not just give money?)

  • Oh my gosh are these cute, I wouldn’t use them for mailing either! I think I’d put each sheet in a tiny matted frame and hang them in my kitchen.

    Does anyone happen to know who the artist is?

  • PS: The US postal service lets you print your own stamps, so a friend did a whole bunch of food ones, but they were one of a kind….

  • Oh my!! I want ‘em!! Love Love Love!

  • They’re just so vibrant and beautiful! I can see why people like France. I don’t speak much French so I’ll just have to settle for looking at the pictures . . .

    Carolyn Z

  • That’s a very charming story about the post office. Ours could probably learn from the French. I collected stamps in the 1970′s and have many lovely French ones, though I cannot recall any food designs. You’ve made me want to dig up those stamps and re-look. Thanks!

  • I love La Poste. Now I MUST go online and order these for my mail art projects. Please tell me you picked up the chocolate bar stamps last year. They were brilliant!

  • Why can’t we have pretty stamps like the French people do?

  • those are gorgeous! and i just love the stories about the interaction between business, the people, and the state in france. i know there are problems with bureaucracy etc, but frankly i spend most of my time jealous. vive l’etat!

  • Gorgeous stamps. Trust the French to be stylish, even in the Post Office.

  • If you are an American around the age of 58 you probably learned at least 5 breeds of dairy cow in the first grade. Holstein, Guernsey, Jersey, Ayreshire, Brown Swiss. My class visited a dairy with Holsteins.
    Smart postal departments make pretty pictorial stamps knowing that a huge number of customers will hold onto them. I started my collection in 1973 when I mailed out wedding invitations. I kind of remember back then the designs were largely pretty flowers and birds, and of course, the Robert Indiana “LOVE” stamp was so popular. Now about the only thing I mail are my bills and I will have to keep a set of the intriguing pine cone stamps I found around Christmas. Better I should get all Liberty Bell forever stamps at Costco and use them up.

  • I wish my former, would-be beau-frère liked cows. Instead, he has this thing for ducks in BDSM gear. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

  • hi mr. david! i just want to thank you for the RT of Serge the Concierge’s contest for your book. :)

  • OMG!! These are soooooo deliciously lovely….I need to get some….

  • Salut David!
    La Poste near the Opéra is FAB. I was there in October 2009 and they could not have been nicer. Like you, I too was greeted upon walking in and it was almost empty. They also showed me their book of stamp options and made my visit most memorable. Glad to see they haven’t changed :)

  • If you, like me, live in the states, but love food, letters, and stamps…don’t despair… I found these stamps through Denali Stamp Co. (denalistamps.com), based in California. Made my day.

  • Love the stamps but really my question is this: You sent an “urgent” letter back to the states via the post office? Really? I can’t escape a mental image of you dapperly flying into the post office crisp coat, cravat, and spatterdashes neatly complementing your brand new wig with an urgent message for 26 Wall Street. :)

  • I know this is unrelated, but do you think that the French are any more or less rude than New Yorkers?

    Those stamps are lovely!!!

  • Great artwork on the food stamps. Your favorite cow? Consider the Dutch Belted. http://www.albc-usa.org/cpl/dutchbelt.html They look like walking Oreos.

  • David, another great post and keen observations on what makes my country and fellow countrymen and women…who they are. Just wanted to let you that I have offered “The Sweet Life In Paris” to my American wife Carol. It is just a treat to hear her giggle and read your books like a novel! Merci.
    Jacques

  • Beautifully manicured thumb,

  • Hooey, I know that post office well, used to go there in the 60′s after picking up my mail at the American Express on Rue Scribe. The new post office style in France is sooooo much nicer than previously — I love the prepaid envelopes, the pretty stamps, employees who are actually pleasant. Seems like consumers love the new approach, but some of the die-hard employees are still not entirely on board.

  • Very attractive stamps are a smart idea for any postal service because they generate collectors that are not going to use them whch means profits. Australia Post generates a large percentage of its income from philatelists world wide, and many small South Pacific nations generate large amounts of income from this.

    I’m impressed that the stamp booklets include a vegetarian theme, which seemed to me a concept widely reviled in France.

  • re: your Bahamian Rum Cake recipe
    I was excited to share a few of your sweets with Japanese company coming over for dinner this past Friday. One of the dishes I prepared in advance of dinner was your Bahamian Rum Cake. When the earthquake hit, I was just starting to prep the table.
    I vividly recall glancing over to check on the cake – on its glass stand — to see if it was rolling off the table. Got a good chuckle: It was heavy enough to survive an 8.9 earthquake intact —-and was enjoyed by all later on that evening. :)
    Greetings and a Thank You from Tokyo, Japan

    • Glad the cake survived, but even better that you did as well. Stay safe and it’s hard not to think about the earthquake this weekend..

  • love your thumb nail ;-) and especially your typo “a promise that no one would not have to wait more than five minutes for service”.
    I still have the chocolate stamps you featured a while back. Thanks for showing this aspect of French life too.

  • I’m sorry for the suicides at France Telecom, but most of us using their services have concluded that it is their customers who should be committing suicide, not the employees. Our household in Provence gave up after four months of trying to straighten out a bureaucratic snafu with FT and went with another telephone and internet provider. When we contacted France Telecom to cancel our service and explain the reason, the response was “well, I’d do the same thing too.” Sad.

  • Judith: I had France Telecom (Orange) as my cell phone provider for about 7 years and when I switched to the iPhone, they said if I wanted to keep my number it would be €480. I told them I could go across the street to SFR and switch for free, and keep my number. And they apologized and said those were the rules..so I left.

    The people at the SFR store could not have been more helpful and the clerk even offered me a whole bunch of accessories—for free, for joining them. So I suspect a lot of the problems at France Telecom are directives from folks higher up.

    (When I had major problems with Numéricable, the technician told me the same thing your FT rep did. He said, “I’d stop paying my bill if I were you..”)

  • great classic movie, “Charade”, with Audrey Hepburn and Cary Grant features stamp collecting in the twisted plot. I couldn’t help but think of this when I read your post.

  • I love French stamps. I started collecting stamps when I was a kid inheriting my father’s international collection. My very favorites, the most beautiful stamps, are always from France.