10 Goofy Foods You’ll Find in a French Supermarket

mes 4 croissants opening croissant

1. Mes 4 Croissants

Poppin’ fraîche has gone global and even with over 1200 bakeries in Paris, why would anyone bother walk all the way across the street to get a fresh, buttery croissant in the morning, that only costs 90 centimes, when you can simply unroll a package of doughy crescents and never slip out of that comfy peignoir de bain? For all you lazy types out there, I took a bullet for you and tried them out.

And speaking of taking bullets, when I peeled back the first layer of the package, the dough exploded with a startlingly loud pop, which so shocked me that I jumped as the dough quickly expanded as it burst from its tight confines. I almost had a crise cardiaque.

rolling croissants

The ingredient list was nearly as wordy as the instructions but the upside is that I learned a few words to add to my French vocabulary, such as stabilisant and agent de traitement de la farine. (Margarine, I already knew). As they baked, my apartment took on the oddly alluring scent of the métro stations equipped with “bakeries” that “bake” croissants this way, whose buttery odors may – or may not – be a result of some sort of traitement.

unrolling croissant dough  croissants

One thing I often have to remind people is just because something is in French, like croissant or macaron (or elementary school lunch menus), doesn’t mean it’s a good version of that item. Just like one could conceivably call a hot pocket of dough with some warm stuff in the middle a calzone, after ripping off an end of one of the soft, spongy crescents, in the words of the late, great Tony Soprano..with all due respects, I’ll stick with the croissants pur beurre from my local bakery. Even if I have to put on something other than my bathrobe in the morning to get them.



macarons

2. Macarons au Chocolat

The macaron craze that has probably subsided in America, didn’t really take off that much in France because you can buy macarons at nearly any bakery in Paris. Like calzones – or croissants – some are better than others. Like croissants, they’re not really something most people in France would make at home because you can buy them so easily.

(Someone recently asked me on Twitter if people here were raising chickens in their backyards. They must have confused Paris with Brooklyn.)

Alsa makes all sorts of mixes, including a powder that somehow turns into ice cream or a sorbet with a “fabuleux goût de fruit!” I don’t know how that churns out, nor do I know anything about these macarons, which come in chocolat, café and framboise. But as they say in America, if it looks too good to be true…


bleeech!

3. Salade Niçoise

It’s just a matter of time before we see Caesar Salad in a can. But Monoprix has a jump on canned salads with their salade Niçoise. Am not sure how those who say that a salade Niçoise shouldn’t have anything cooked it in would feel, but once I peeled back the lid on this one…well, let’s just say this is a pretty definitive argument for the raw vegetable version. I know I’m convinced.


Frenchified corn syrup

4. Sirop de Maïs

Nothing strike fear in the hearts of Americans more than the words “corn” and “syrup” in the same sentence. And you’ll notice, as a courtesy, I didn’t put them right next to each other for those of you out there who are sensitive to those things.

While we wait for the future when people start loading drinks back up with corn syrup (don’t laugh; I never would have thought in a million-trillion years that companies would use “real sugar” as a selling point), the French natural foods markets are getting a jump on things by selling sirop de maïs, proudly. No masking it behind goofy names like “sucre de maïs” (corn sugar) – it’s right up there, in your face. I am not sure what it’s used for, or why you can buy it only in natural foods stores, but not regular supermarkets. But France isn’t called the land of contradictions for nothing and in case you need to know where to find it, that’s where it is. For now, or for l’avenir (the future).


grapefruit rose

5. Fruits and Wine

I like the fact that it says “Fruits and Wine” in English. Because otherwise Anglophones might pick it up by accident, confusing it with rosé. But before the grammar police hop on a plane to correct mes comrades in France, in their defense, technically grapes are fruits. So they (or this) indeed should be plural. But as much as it is a little disquieting to see wine and fruit juice pre-mixed together, our neighbors in Spain make sangria and they get no complaints from me when I go there for a visit. I bought this more as a curiosity and after circling around it in my apartment for a few uncomfortable days, I figured I should at least pop the cork. I mean, unscrew the top off.

Because my extended French family is more Marseillaises than Parisian, I put ice in my rosé, like they do in Marseille. And if any other beverage in l’hexagone is calling out – actually screaming – to be served thoroughly chilled, this is it. When I drew the glass to my lips, I took a quick whiff and was relieved that it indeed had the aroma of dry, fruity rosé wine.

However a moment after that first sip, I wrinkled up my nose. And booked a trip to Spain.


pancakes

6. Les pancakes

If the idea of cold pancakes doesn’t sound so appealing to you, you’re not alone. Actually, you we are alone. Sold by the sack – or if you’re at Starbucks, they sell them individually alongside the other pastries. I am not sure of what the appeal is of a cold pancake. Do you dip it in maple syrup? Do you slather it with equally cold butter? Do you dip it in your coffee?

Or maybe because the packaging is red, white and blue, they’re meant to be like those frozen waffles in America that you stick in the toaster to warm up and eat with your hands? Oh, to heck with it. I want a croissant—preferably a non-explosive fresh one.


Poulet Thyme chips

7. Poulet (Roast chicken-flavored) Chips

A few months back a friend formerly from New York had a party and bought all sorts of lovely hams, figs, and cheeses to serve with l’apéro (the aperitif). Romain’s eyes almost fell out of his head because the usual fare offered are often things like peanut butter-filled Curly Balls or another pre-made snacks with “cheese”-like fillings.

french snacks

In fact, the snack-food aisle (and the people) are expanding so widely that the chips and other stuff are threatening to take over the place of the supermarket yogurt aisle in terms of length, quantity, and variety of available flavors. I’ll admit I buy sticks d’Alsace (pretzels) once in a while, and the salted nuts are pretty good, including the peanuts. But the peanut butter-flavored treats above are interesting because the French have a famous aversion to peanut butter, but snack on peanuts with drinks. Which is like saying, “I don’t like mashed potatoes, but I like potatoes” or “I like corn, but I don’t like corn syrup.”

lay's potato chips-mystery flavor

But what’s even a greater mystery are chips that are flavored with…well, it’s a…mystère


vanilla crepes

8. Pre-Packaged Vanilla Crêpes

(This field has intentionally been left blank.)


chocolate caramel yogurt

9. Chocolate-caramel “yogurt”

One of my favorite places in the French supermarket is the yogurt aisle. Although lately it’s become harder and hard just to find plain ol’ regular yogurt without all sorts of flavorings and sweeteners in it. So much so, that I’ve been going to the health food store to buy my yogurt. (And if I ever miss American yogurt, I can get some of that corn syrup to add to it.) In supermarkets, I’ve seen pots of the stuff with pistachio-macaron flavoring, and stuff for kids that are cotton candy-flavored. But it’s the packaging that can be more shocking and sometimes the colored labels are so bright that they hurt my eyes, more than Avatar did.

Technically, this isn’t yogurt but dessert, I suppose. Although it’s one of the products that’s clogging up the yogurt aisle, nudging out my beloved French yogurt. And I’ll have to admit, closer to home, I’ve even seen it in a certain someone’s refrigerator. When I bust him dipping a spoon into one, he just looks at me with those big, brown French eyes and says helplessly – “J’adore ça.” (“I love it.”)

So c’est comme ça*.


Harry's American Bread

10. Harry’s American Bread

Did you know that Harry’s bread is consumed in two-thirds of all households in France? (Probably not.) Do you know why? Probably not. But if so, please explain to me.

I’m not sure why anyone would prefer this “American Sandwich” bread over the freshly baked loaves sold in one of the bakeries that’s on just about every friggin’ corner. Of every single street. In every single neighborhood. But I shouldn’t say anything because at least they bake it for you, and it keeps for weeks.

Which, as they say, is très américain.



*It’s like that.

221 comments

  • Nice to see your selection and your vision of french people… Everytime I travel I try to go in local supermarket. Show me what you eat and I’ll show you who you are ;-) I recently wrote an article for my blog about moroccan supermarket and products to show cultural differences through local products.

    En tous cas votre blog est vraiment génial ;-)

  • Hilarious. I think French folks would be equally horrified by alot of American supermarket offerings. Baconaise anyone?

  • Brilliant article David! We have the tube croissants, cold packaged crepes and harry’s bread here in Belgium too. I’ve never even seen anyone buy that bread so dont’ know what the deal is there. The crepes are heated in a microwave and really really awful, if you are very unlucky you get one of those when you order any in a cafe here (if so, never go back there). But the tube croissants are not that bad, you need to stuff them with grated cheese or chocolate before rolling and they are okay – we can’t get any proper French croissants here anyway so these are still nice to whip up (or pop open?) when serving breakfast in bed.
    And I’m so trying those mystery chips next time I’m in France!

  • This makes me kind of happy that I’m living in the Third world :)

  • I’m afraid I’m going to wake up in a cold sweat tonight after that salad nicoise photo that literally gave me the chills.

  • The only (and delicious) way to eat those croissants is to spread a tablespoon of nutella before rolling them. Best breakfast ever!

  • After getting addicted to Nancy’s Organic Yogurt in the US, I had serious withdrawal when I moved to Paris. I went through every type of yogurt Naturalia carries, and they were all terrible. But! Monoprix to the rescue. Les 2 Vaches makes excellent plain yogurt that’s also biologique. I’m pretty sure they have both full fat and non fat. It’s totally worth the surly, texting, blue eye-shadowed cashiers, I promise you.

    No one will ever be able to explain to me the prevalence of I-Can’t-Believe-It’s-Not-Wonderbread here. It’s not like bakeries don’t make sandwich loaf shaped bread, either!

  • The time-honored way to eat those “whomp” (as they say in the South) croissants is to cut the dough into triangles and make pigs in a blanket with little hot dogs/sausages! The nicoise in a can is truly alarming. My local supermarket in the DC area started selling packages of crepes and they are terrible imitations of the real thing.

  • Oh you are a brave man to try these things which I have carefully avoided in the supermarche so far! Exploding croissant dough! It is probably because it’s made with margarine instead of butter that makes it taste awful.. oh and it comes in a can…
    Favourite memories of the supermarche when I first moved to Paris included the “Horse” section in the meat aisle and the six-pack of fresh snails in the shell in a packet!
    Bon Appetit!

  • LOL! i wonder what went into the head of those whose have these products sold in the markets and who in the right frame of mind would buy them! :-) / :-(

  • The salad Nicoise kills my appetite!

  • Denise: I was doing a demo at a Paris department store once and they were having an “American Festival”. There were things like powdered cheesecake mix (which I’ve never seen in American…) and some other stuff. But the one thing that perplexed the French was strawberry-flavored marshmallow Fluff. I had to admit that it was something that even I hadn’t seen, perhaps since the 1960s. Funny that it was being imported into France.

    Erika: I think that perhaps the reason people who live in the country eat levain (sourdough) bread is because it keeps well, and that certain foods (like croissants) are meant to be eaten fresh, or not at all. Similarly you get tortillas in Texas and probably the idea of freeze-dried tortillas that had to be reconstituted with water or something would seem weird to you. Hey, come to think of it – maybe we should do a trade- tortillas for (butter) croissants? : )

    goodeaten: I use corn syrup (or suggest agave as a substitute, like in that chocolate sauce) since it has certain properties in candymaking that can’t be obtained without it. But some people confuse corn syrup with high-fructose corn syrup, which are different things. It’s just funny to see something so reviled (at the moment…) in American being sold in natural food stores here.

    Gia Marie: lol! Thanks for the chuckle about the Monoprix cashiers. I try not to go there anymore because I just can’t take the abuse at the register. I think they have that 2 Vaches yogurt at the Casino store that just opened near me (and they are super nice in there…it’s like a whole new world).

  • I had one of those Mamie Nova Creme Caramel desserts the last time I was in France (the plain Creme Caramel flavor). As I recall, it wasn’t half bad. However, in my defense, I was at an autogrill and I didn’t have much to choose from.

  • this post made me laugh. sadly i did not see any of these things the last time i visited france. those pancake packs are quite intriguing. and you’re not the only one those canned croissants scare. those and the canned biscuits i pick up every once in a blue moon scare the crap out of me. i actually have taken to peeling back a tiny corner, covering it with a dish towel, and smacking it with something from afar. i think it’s akin to the fear of jack-in-the-boxes. i don’t want anything jumping out at me with a loud pop, even if it is buttery pastry dough.

  • Are you sure the salade nicoise wasn’t cat food?

  • Moving to Australia from the states meant there was a lot more home cooking because there is little prepared food here. The biggest sections in our supermarkets are fresh vegetables and meat. I think it’s fantastic. No aisle upon aisle of frozen ready to eat meals or aisles of food in boxes where you just add water.

    It did take a bit of getting used to.

  • I remember making a pecan pie for a Thanksgiving get-together in Geneva twenty-five years ago and the Europeans were quite curious as to its ingredients. When I mentioned sirop de mais they looked surprised because they didn’t know there was such a product. And, no surprise, they really didn’t like pecan pie! Too sweet for their taste buds.

  • Don’t think “corn syrup” is a selling point?
    People follow wierd paths… Do you remember Cher telling us how awful refined sugar was and urging us all to consume a sugar substitute that contained nothing but chemicals?
    It is a strange world out there.

  • I can’t imagine the French buying any of those items, it is just too funny!

  • I think I want some Curly Balls (that sounds so wrong in English, doesn’t it?).
    Extruded corn product filled with peanut butter! It sounds like the ideal American snack!

    I found this through Wikipedia:

    Fabrication du Curly

  • I haven’t been able to eat that type of bread since I was a child, and did a bread commercial with my siblings and some neighborhood kids. It was at a playground; we were swinging, twirling on a merry-go-round, seesawing, hanging upside-down, while taking a big bite out of a slice, and exclaiming, “YUMM, it’s GOOD!” We were told to throw each slice on the ground, but our mother raised us better than that. Each of us ate the equivalent of three loaves. I still hate it.

  • I remember all too well the apéros with those god-awful cacahuète puffs. Often sold in multi-packs alongside cheese puffs and pretzels. My French friends were incredulous that the américaine didn’t like the caca puffs. Another abomination (although more of a “lost in translation”) were those damned “goût fromage” tortilla chips, along with powdered mix for guac. I always fried up or baked my own chips and made homemade guacamole, which was usually a hit. The other Frenchy “thing” I can’t stand are the over-sugared flavored syrups (à la Teisseire), avec sirop de maïs, bien sûr!

    I believe Harry’s got its start after WWII with the American GI’s introducing our “bread”.

  • What ever happened to Bret’s Olive Potato Chips? Loved them in 2005l have not found them since.

  • BTW… one of the non goofy things you can find in a French supermache is all pork American style hot dogs. You can no longer find all pork hot dogs in the USA in supermarkets. But… while you can find hamburger buns in French supermarkets… you cant find hot dog rolls. I was advised to “use a baquette”…
    what I found goofy though were the prepackaged cheese slices cut to fit onto the burgers. And no, they are not American cheese–or what’s it called… “cheese food!”

  • Oh, I am dying of laughter. We are just back and I was in a Franprix or Carrefour almost every day due to my love of browsing grocery stores and saw quite a few of the oddities listed here.

    I was quite frustrated with the “not” yogurt products as well as the overly sugary Dannon varieties I saw everywhere. (I did not travel all that way to eat Activia!) Our last few days there I bought something I thought was sheeps milk yogurt that turned out to be something like curds and way. Not yogurt, not cheese, just tateless and horrid. Ick!

  • Et la mayonnaise en tube….Entre autre….

  • The exploding croissants reminds me of a friend from Boston gifting me bread in a can.

    You open the can, and voila: BREAD.

    Our Sicilian room mate nearly choked to death in horror and disbelief.

    PS: It was brown.

  • Hey, some of those Mamie Nova desserts are good – I personally find the violet flavored one to be luscious. It’s not yogurt, though, it’s pudding. Their fruit yogurts, especially the cherry, are also very good. My husband likes those chicken flavored potato chips, but once he tried the Harry’s bread and pronounced it beurk!

  • What an excellent post that made me laugh out loud. Definitely worth sharing with friends back home. My husband and I are living in the south of France, and I cannot convince him to give up his corn-syrup laden Yoplait for something more bio, or at least sugar-sweetened. Also, I confess that I have been searching for months for frozen waffles at various Carrefours, when I know they sell fantastic real “Belgian” gauffres at the bakery.

  • *giggles*

    A whole new aspect of “living like God in France” (an expression used here when they mean “living the life of Riley”)! ;-)

  • Living in a French household, I try to have some “pain de mie” on hand for croque monsieurs, french toast, toad-in-the holes, and sandwiches (or just when we’re too lazy to go to the bakery). I think Harry’s is so popular because certain stores only carry that brand. I stopped buying it because of the palm oil. We now buy the Jacquet brand (or make our own)

  • I had never noticed tube croissants before and picked up some just last week, because I was SO curious to see how you could get 4 croissants out of that tube. Now that I saw your pics and read your description, I don’t even have curiousity to egg me on… I thought the Mystère potato chips were hysterical. I couldn’t stop laughing, your comment was so funny. Great post. I love reading about the peculiarities ones finds around the world.

  • I am not so sure I should write this…but I actually do buy the Harry’s bread. In Belgium.
    The reason is simple: I make a croque with ham and cheese very fast in the morning to take with me for breakfast to work.
    I am Greek and in Greece there is a massive variety of this type of bread at the supermarket (they call it toast bread, toast being a croque monsieur), but here after trying the very few brands that seemed edible, Harry’s turned out to be the tastiest and longest lasting one. Normal bread pre-cut in slices very often ends up in crumbles.

    It would be great to eat a baguette instead but that means, going to buy it, coming back to make my sandwich and probably eating what is left of it in the evening with dinner (generally the baguettes, here at least, cannot be eaten the next day, other types of bread do last long).

    So maybe this is one of the explanations about the consumption of this bread (which by the way I find quite expensive) -although from a Belgian/Greek point of view
    NIce day to all!

  • I think you’ve forgotten that the purpose of croissants in a can is to roll and bake them with hot dogs. Yum!

  • I love it. I have that Alsa macaron mix at home right now- it’s going to be a weekend project. Harry’s bread? Check. Chocolate yogurt? Check.

    Am I still allowed to read your blog???

  • I’m not sure what is more scary – the canned salad or the roast chicken -flavoured chips.

  • Long-time reader commenting for the first time… I just wanted to ask if anybody living in Paris has tried La Ferme du Manège yoghurts? They are sold individually and not massively cheap, but you get quite a lot and they are INCREDIBLE. My boyfriend adored the myrtille (blueberry, if I remember correct?) and I was in love with the hazelnut… but they also had raspberry, almond, chestnut, vanilla, honey and dulce de leche and plain flavours!

  • Oh my – and you have tasted all these things. Brave man. From Curly Balls to what is surely the most shocking, Salade Nicoise in a can. Oh no.

  • We found roast chicken-flavored potato chips in Spain, as well, and I LOVED them. Why don’t we have those in America? I tried to convince my friend to periodically ship me a few bags, but that never happened.

    I’d be curious to know when processed foods like these started appearing in French and other European markets. Maybe a research project…

  • I’ve tried the chicken potato chips…and liked them! And the caramel chocolate Mamie Nova yogurt is delish (as is Mamie’s cherry yogurt). But you’re right…definitely dessert. The salade Niçoise is gag-worthy. And I bought Harry’s bread once to make peanut and butter sandwiches for my French class (made up of one French teacher, one Polish girl, a guy from Colombia, and a handful of Asians, mostly Chinese). BTW, the sandwiches were devoured in a NY minute and were hugely popular…with everyone except the Frenchy who had issues with the texture of the peanut butter more than the taste. Gotta run…Carrefour is calling. ;)

  • …uh, that would be peanut butter and JELLY sandwiches. Not peanut and butter sandwiches. Blech.

  • We always got Pillsbury poppin’ fresh when I was a kid and I do still enjoy one on rare occasions. The kids love them (especially the bang!) I call them our chemical treats…
    Mostly we make everything fresh here! My daughter loves cold pancakes though we bought the frozen ones once just to try and they were awful! I love going through and seeing all the “Who on earth though of THAT?” packaged foods when traveling. Even here in Colorado Country, there are some great bakeries with great croissants and breads. Really funny post, I loved reading it!

  • Loving this post. I have to sheepishly admit to at one time or another buying several of the products on this list. You know why? I have a 3 year-old and an 8 year-old who do the shopping with me! I think the large majority of these items should come with a warning that they are not for adult consumption.

  • When we were in Japan, we ate Calbee brand potato chips. My favorite flavor was the consommé. I would buy them at convenience stores. Couldn’t get enough. Can’t find them here in the US.

  • Monsieur Lebovitz,

    I’ll be honest with you.
    I like you and respect you.
    I really do.
    But there are sometimes that you talk as if France is just about Paris
    or worse, like Paris IS the whole France.
    I mean, I understand you are thrilled about living there and all,
    but I live in the countryside (which is as much “France” as Paris) and you really hurt my feelings…

    Greetings,

    Julie

  • The Bret’s Poulet Braise taste like the crispy skin of roast chicken and aren’t bad in small quantities

    I’ve never seen anyone actually buy the Harry’s American Bread, but the Monop stores sell sandwiches made with that type of bread

  • Julie: I’m not sure what you mean as I’ve done a substantial amount of posts on various regions in France both in large cities and smaller villages. In fact, the previous post before this one was written in the French countryside, in small village with perhaps just a few hundred occupants.

    I’ve also posted about Coulommiers, the Jura, St. Jeannet, Meaux, Nice and the Côte d’Azur, Arbois, as well as Agen, Meribel, the Rhône, and Vence.

    And the Lot and Cahors. And Cognac and Quiberon and Plouescat.

    And Brittany and Louviers, Rouen, and the Guérande, as well as picking olives in the French countryside near Ampus.

    If you’re a new reader to the site, you might want to take a look at them (and through the archives) as they provide a greater overview of the blog than just one post.

    Whether we like it or not, these items are just a part of modern-day France. (I assume that since most of these are made by French-based manufacturers, they’re available all over France, in supermarkets and hypermarchés – not just in Paris.) It would be fun if someone took up the mantle of writing about unusual and funny things they find in supermarkets where they live, be in small towns or large cities, around the world.

  • The backlash in the U.S. is primarily against *high-fructose* corn-syrup, not corn syrup that you buy in a jar in the grocery store. Corn syrup is a common ingredient in baked goods, for instance, pecan pie. It has been in my mom’s and grandmother’s cupboard for many, many years. I don’t understand why it would be odd to find it on the shelf.

  • That was fun to read. I love going to grocery stores when I travel. I AM surprised to hear that so many French people eat that awful-looking bread, though.

  • That salad in a can looks like all kinds of wrong.

  • “Poppin fraiche” = funny. I suppose Le Vache Qui Rit started it all.

  • Growing up we ate ‘healthy’ so nothing too processed – that’s why going to grandma’s and getting to eat ‘chicken in a biskit’ crackers was such a treat. They were by Nabisco – scallop-edged rectangle crackers that had a fine powdery coating that tasted of salty, buttery chicken – delicious! As a result, chicken flavored chips could probably become an addiction if I ever found a source in the US. Oh how I love going to supermarkets when I travel – always the best/most interesting souvenirs!

  • Hi David. Sorry I’m posting here but I’m hoping you see this. I’m trying to attend your Sundae making event on the 24th (Coming from Baltimore… in Paris for 10 days… been following you and making your recipes for years… borderline groupie) and the email address isn’t working. Do you know how I can contact the hosts?

    Thanks,

    Charlie

    Hi Charlie: It may be full. It’s best to call or contact Colette directly to find out if there is space or not. Thanks – dl

  • Corn syrup and high fructose corn syrup are are quite different according to this article.

    http://lifehacker.com/5809331/what-sugar-actually-does-to-your-brain-and-body

  • now we know the french secret to croissants, macarons and salade nicoise!

  • That was funny. . .the chicken chips were the kicker for me. I bet there were plenty of others you left out, too, correct? The Parisian bubble was popped for me yet I found it so amusing!

  • perhaps the French like Harry’s American bread because it has the awesome property of Wonder Bread to squish up into one very small ball.

  • The salade nicoise looks like one of the fancier brands of cat food.

    And I have to admit–I would say I like potatoes, but I can’t eat mashed potatoes. Never liked the texture. Yuck. Though I guess if faced with starvation I’d take them over cold pancakes in a bag.

  • Melissa: I think that may be why the French have taken so quickly to McDonald’s and other convenience foods – because it’s relatively ‘new’ to them, and different from what they were eating just a generation ago.

    Christophe: I keep explaining that to people, who wonder if they really need to use the 1/8 teaspoon of corn syrup in a recipe. But many insist on avoiding all corn syrup altogether, even though the two are quite different.

    Wanda: When I was in elementary school, they used to give us butter sandwiches on white bread, which was packed in a waxed bag. I used to squish it down, as firmly as I could, to see how flat – and how large – I would make it!

  • That tuna nicose, like all those canned items, I see here in France is degoutant! Everyone loves the French and their food. But when you go to a hypermache, in today’s age, and look in folks chariot…OMG. It’s no wonder the French ARE getting fat. Not like the US by any means but they are getting fatter.

  • Who’s Harry? ;)

  • I kid you not, my (French) husband said the Alsa chocolate were the best macarons he had ever eaten. He didn’t know I had made them and thought a friend brought them over. He was going to ask her what bakery. And then when I made the Ladurée recipe he thought they were way too sweet.

  • Oh, and if anyone has a delicious pecan pie recipe with anything other than corn syrup, I’d like to know about it. I bring the corn syrup back expressly for that purpose.

    There’s a recipe here on the site for Chocolate-Pecan Pie that works with Golden Syrup – dl

  • Let me help you clear up the mystery: The Harry’s Bread is all about picnic lunches for the kids when they have field trips at school (which is quite often, btw), quick toast for breakfast, and quick croques. We are one of those Parisien families that buy it all the time and find it fabulous, although I do prefer Maxi Jac’ Complet actually. There is actually pain de mie at the bakeries, but the convenience of having bread in the pantry that keeps for the entire week is the selling point for a family with 3 kids. Also, often baguette sandwiches are just too difficult for little kids to eat; the tradition ones are especially too crispy in the crust.

    The yogurts you mention are not yougurts, they are dessert treats. And it is really kind of funny the way some of you commented about them—because no one I know here can stand the ultra sweet American ones! They also sell yogurts at the cheese shops, btw; those are excellent!

    And how about this for disgusting food: sandwich in a can, anyone? These were featured in an article in Ca m’intéresse, june issue. They say that in America, you can buy a chicken with bbq sauce sandwich made with hot dog bread that will last for months without refrigeration—miam!

    But you are right…a lot of foods in supermarkets anywhere are perplexing! Very funny article.

  • Mia: Yes, there’s also Chicken in a Can in America – ! I have a hard time finding plain yogurt in America as well. Most of it is sweetened (a lot) and fruit-flavored, and I really like just plain full-fat yogurt, which I often buy at natural food stores in Paris.

    Lady Jennie: Interestingly, I know several French people that say Ladurée macarons are too sweet, which perhaps explains why they’re so popular with Americans and Japanese people.

  • The pancakes seem the kind of thing that you buy to roll up with some whipped cream or jam for a kid’s treat or something, rather than heat up and serve like you normally would. Which is what happens with the pre-made pancakes over here in New Zealand. (Cafes even sell them like that [rolled up with cream piped into the middle] here.)
    The packaging though… seems as if they are meant to be heated up and then consumed warm with syrup. You also get ten, which seems more meal sized than snack sized.

  • Dude, alsatian festival next to louvre. Had other idea for lunch but smelled stinky washed rind cheese being cooked. Munster soup to taste. Baked tartes with big melty slices of munster, really good beer.

  • Hello David, Wow! Thanks for the supermarket tour of the processed items…I am equally surprised in my hometown supermarkets when I take an intentional look at what I don’t buy. I’d like to request another super 10 list from you of the good and healthy items you find in the french markets that we may not see in America…thanks for the informative and fun(ny) post.

  • Jen: I’ve profiled quite a few things that you can find in the supermarkets here that I like on the site which are right up that alley. I don’t do the majority of my shopping in the supermarket, since I prefer to go to the outdoor market (or natural food store), but check out:

    Le Petit Suisse

    Caillé

    Madame Loïk

    Speculoos Cream

    Lait d’Ici

    Leeks

    Fleur de Sel

    Comté

    St Malo Fromage Frais

  • Must admit that I buy Harry’s too. It’s not brilliant but as I have an occasional peanut butter etc sandwich during the week I can’t exactly buy a baguette just for that – especially as the next day you can use it as a truncheon.

  • Ha! Croissant in a tin, awesome.

  • And David, I am so glad that someone is attempting to pop the bubble of fantasy about the French. All things French do not always equal high culture!

    I have been here for only eleven years, but that’s eleven years of going to the park afterschool with some of the other mothers, and let me tell you…I’ve seen some weird stuff that they buy from the supermarkets…which may help you fill out the other mystery of the prepackaged crepes… Yes, they bring those to the park afterschool and feed them to their children!

    But here’s a funny story for you—I once baked a bunch of cupcakes for a school fete and one of the mothers looked at them and asked what they were, I said “cupcakes!” “Ooh, cupcakes,” she repeated, “I’ve heard of those…” (This was before the cupcake and brownie and cheesecake craze, of course. Want to know what’s coming up next for Paris?—angelfood cake—they’re amazed by it!)

    But anyway— everyone stop dissing the doughboy and the Wonderbread—they’re part of my childhood memories, as sad as that may be to the rest of you!

  • To Melissa, June 17 135am
    I live near Los Angeles, ca and I’ve found the’ chicken in a biskit’ crackers at Vons grocery.I actually have a box in my pantry right now!

  • Hi David,

    Hilarious article! All of these items have drawn my attention as well, notably the flavored rosé and the “facile” macarons. In all honesty, I was kind of hoping you had tried them out as well, just so my curiosity could be appeased without my having to venture out and test them myself! I agree with you on the Monoprix canned salads. What’s with the viscous vinegar sauce? Were consumer focus groups consulted? Did the participants have functioning taste buds? Harry’s bread once appalled me, too, but after 10 years of living in France I now find “American” bread somehow comforting. A whole wheat slice spread with Kiri and a few herbs…mmmm. As for Mamie Nova, the design agency I work for actually does most of their packaging so…um…I’m going to have to go ahead and disagree with you on that. Multi-colored dairy products are the future. ;-)

  • A dirty little secret: the packaged chocolate filled crepes from Galleries Lafayette (sold on a table in back of the cheese shop) are not at all bad for breakfast in your hotel room. Order up cafe au lait and dunk. Mmmmmm. The hard dark chocolate inside melts just enough and the crepe softens. Mmmmhmmmm.

  • my favorite in France is Nougatti bars from Cote d’Or!

  • On the bag of pancakes, I stopped in Starbucks this afternoon, which has become a bit a a savior while I’m here in Paris. Their iced coffee(though they just pour hot over ice) is at least swimming in ice. I never thought I’d miss frozen water so much, but I find the french method of serving lukewarm tap water baffling.

    Anyway, they were heating up three pancakes in the microwave for a french customer, with what seemed like a little cup of blueberry syrup. So I’m guessing you had it right when you surmised they were like Americans and our Eggo waffles. Meant to be quickly heated for breakfast.

  • I’ll reiterate what others have said about the Nicoise being mislabelled cat food, and also add to the bread comments regarding croque. In one of Rick Stein’s TV programmes in the UK he visited one of the french markets which tour English towns fairly regularly now & asked one of the French stallholders what French shoppers would want to buy from a visiting English market. He replied “tins of baked beans, and white sliced bread for croque monsieur”.
    Very funny blog post, cheered me up on a cold, grey, rainy English summer’s day.

  • Paul: What’s interesting is that many cafés in Paris that have croque monsieurs often have two on the menu; one is just croque monsieur and the other is croque monsieur sur pain Poîlane (crusty sourdough bread, for those who don’t know the famous bread).

    And I always wonder – “Who the heck isn’t going to order it with pain Poîlane?”

    Yet I’d see people eating the one on white bread and just assumed it was because it was cheaper. But I guess that explains the salade de chèvre chaud I had the other day came out with 4 toasted triangles of supermarket white bread. I wish they had offered me a choice!

  • This salade niçoise in a can would make mayor Jacques Médecin (former mayor of Nice, writer of La cuisine Niçoise) stir and even jump in his final resting place. Oh, and la canette de croissants, that is ‘trop fort”. I guess my final observation would be” People don’t care what they eat, even in
    france.C’est triste.

  • Pancakes & crepes in a bag is something I thought I’d never see,wow!

  • David,
    I am a big fan of yours and own all your books; I have been trading your blog for a long time too but this is the first time I comment. Those pictures are brilliant, only you and that hilarious sense of humor would have thought to take pictures of those items. Let me be honest, I would love to be able to get macarons in a vending machine. Thank you for sharing.
    Pearl

  • And I use the French food system as something to aspire too!

  • Wait, the French are starting to use Sirop de Mais?! Does that We will have to start calling it “Freedom Syrup” in the U.S.? Sad, but this is just looking so much like an American grocery store.The mystery flavored chips cracked me the hell up.

  • This is some excellent bedtime reading – hilarious. The one that scares me the most & causes a quick gag reflex is the Nicoise in a CAN. What the? They have reinterpreted on of my favorite salads and turned it into that. I do not need to meet the person who favors salad in a can.
    The rest #lazy. Especially in Paris – with all those real bakeries.

  • What about the fois gras in a can? The rillettes in a can? The rognons (kidneys) in a can? As the French say, beurk!

  • What a funny post! It’s true, the mind boggles when you see some of the processed food sold in French supermarkets, especially that salad nicoise. My favorite freaky find here in the Gers, though I’ve never bought it, is the canned Paella.

  • We just relocated to the South of France and I have been in so many grocery stores trying to find “staples” for my kitchen. I’ve learned quite a bit about yogurt as well as the aversion to peanut butter. I have a 3.5 year old little boy who has had a *lot* of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches (they travel very well and don’t need to be refrigerated when you are out exploring) and think Harry’s bread is a good way to make those sandwiches for him when we go to the beach. He isn’t yet a fan of the giant pannini’s avec jambon that they sell at the beach huts yet. He really likes Nutella and jelly now – or maybe he just doesn’t know the difference? I’m a huge fan, though and made your bleu cheese dressing last week!

  • Don’t forget the American style sliced bread with the crusts pre-cut off.

  • aaahh the croissants…. Being painfully far away from places that sell baked croissants and have no time or skills to make real ones, I brought the frozen dough a couple of times. But they are really flavorless biscuit doughs and I don’t think you can get a real croissant from anything they sell in grocery store…unless it’s fresh from the bakery section.

    Speaking of which, slice an opening in the middle of a buttery croissant, stuff a marshmellow (peeps for me) in it and microwave for 10 seconds. It’s heavenly. I also like to dip hot croissant in cold orange juice. yum.

  • This is FUN-NY!
    But a few comments from someone who moved to France in 1968 and only moved back to the States – part-time – in 1999.
    - First of all, most of these things are American transplants. That can be explained by the fact that U.S. companies are buying up European things. GMO (or OGM for the French) is making in-roads. Corn syrup – or sucre de maïs – is being added to stuff. Waistlines are growing, and scales are working overtime.
    - American dinner crescent rolls have been popping since I was in high school… and I’m not spring chicken. You sound surprised to discover their existence. That leaves me perplexed.
    - The LCM here (lowest common denominator) is that people are getting lazy. And women are working, so neither adult wants to cook when they get home. I’m finding more and more that French people put up with restaurant fare that would have elicited the WND (wrinkled nose of disdain) only a few years ago.
    - As for Harry’s bread… I can’t understand that one either.

  • I have a question regarding croissants, i tried the other more pertinent blog posts for the question but no more comments allowed. I´m from Argentina (will be living in paris for 3 months soon) here, in buenos aires at least, we have something called “medialuna” you can have it “de grasa” & “de manteca”… concerning the ones “de manteca” (of butter) they are similar to croissants and often called that way but they`re not exactly croissants, they contain it seems more butter, maybe sugar and like an outter glaze called “almibar”
    Do you know what I´m talking about? if so, how is that pastry called in france?
    (I´m obviously willing to try the french pastries but I´m just curious if the medialuna exists there also :) Thanks! hope you can help and that you understand the message! I beginning to think they are what you sometimes call “butter croissants” and it has its logic…
    Daphne

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/51638266@N07/5150457327/

  • I remember roast chicken potato chips from my childhood in Canada! They were on the shelves very briefly, around the same time as dill pickle flavoured chips. Nice to have their existence confirmed. I was beginning to wonder whether I’d been hallucinating. Give me good old salt & vinegar any day….

  • They probably make croque-monsieur with it. I would not think we eat so many sandwiches.

    I have been living outside France for almost 20 years now and whenever I come back to visit the dairy product aisles in the supermarket feel like a trip in another dimension.
    I also find the amount of packaging quite shocking.

    The only excuse I can find for the rolled croissant is if you want to use the dough to make stuffed croissants. Maybe.

  • Something really tasty I found in a Paris supermarkett(maybe even Priceleader)- sardine fillets in basil and white wine. It cost about 1 euro and tasted nothing like tinned sardines here in the US. There were quite a few different sorts of tinned sardines in the market and teas in a pretty smalll market- almost like a convenience store size here

  • i truly believe that potato chips are the window to a culture’s gastronomic soul. here in spain, chorizo, jamón iberico, deli ham + cheese, and garlic-onion. pretty much sums it up, i’d say.

  • Hi David, I’m an American who has lived in London for years: we have crisps in all kinds of flavours: roast beef, prawn cocktail, thai chilli, cheese and onion, salt and vinegar. They even had a competition once to design a new flavour and got things like ‘hamburger’ and ‘roast dinnner’! My kids like the prawn cocktail ones best.

    I have to say the British do have wonderful yoghurt and dairy products, but plenty of processed, dessert-type ones as well.

  • Wonderful! I I’d love a can of exploding croissants to keep by the door in case someone tries to break in.

    I guess other people’s food is always mysterious. I’ve never been able to understand how American macaroni and cheese can come in a box. Does that explode too?

  • The grocery store is one of the first places I visit whenever I travel abroad. It’s endlessly fascinating. I’ve seen “chicken flavored chips” in a few countries, as well as the pre-packaged crepes, but the “mystery flavored” snacks are hilarious. Do you dare try them?! Funny and entertaining post as always;).