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.


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…


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.


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.

Never miss a post!


  • June 17, 2011 1:16am

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

  • Melissa
    June 17, 2011 1:35am

    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!

  • charlie
    June 17, 2011 2:29am

    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?



    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

  • Christophe
    June 17, 2011 3:24am

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


  • June 17, 2011 4:07am

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

  • Bernadette
    June 17, 2011 5:32am

    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!

  • June 17, 2011 7:35am

    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.

  • Skippy
    June 17, 2011 7:53am

    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.

  • June 17, 2011 8:04am
    David Lebovitz

    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!

  • JB
    June 17, 2011 8:20am

    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.

  • June 17, 2011 8:41am

    Who’s Harry? ;)

  • June 17, 2011 9:45am

    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.

  • June 17, 2011 9:46am

    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

  • Mia
    June 17, 2011 12:55pm

    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.

  • June 17, 2011 1:09pm
    David Lebovitz

    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.

  • Chloe
    June 17, 2011 1:27pm

    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.

  • Liz
    June 17, 2011 1:51pm

    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.

  • Jen
    June 17, 2011 1:53pm

    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.

  • June 17, 2011 1:59pm
    David Lebovitz

    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


    Madame Loïk

    Speculoos Cream

    Lait d’Ici


    Fleur de Sel


    St Malo Fromage Frais

  • Jeff
    June 17, 2011 2:06pm

    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.

  • June 17, 2011 2:37pm

    Ha! Croissant in a tin, awesome.

  • Mia
    June 17, 2011 2:39pm

    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!

  • Theresa Mccorkhill
    June 17, 2011 3:06pm

    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!

  • June 17, 2011 3:12pm

    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. ;-)

  • Margaret Pilgrim
    June 17, 2011 3:23pm

    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.

  • joop
    June 17, 2011 6:01pm

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

  • Liz
    June 17, 2011 6:15pm

    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.

  • Paul Gahan
    June 17, 2011 6:55pm

    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.

  • June 17, 2011 7:06pm
    David Lebovitz

    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!

  • June 17, 2011 8:23pm

    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.

  • June 17, 2011 10:35pm

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

  • June 17, 2011 11:07pm

    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.

  • June 18, 2011 12:16am

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

  • June 18, 2011 2:08am

    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.

  • June 18, 2011 5:45am

    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.

  • June 18, 2011 8:48am

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

  • josiesansfrontieres
    June 18, 2011 10:27am

    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.

  • June 18, 2011 4:30pm

    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!

  • Lore
    June 18, 2011 6:19pm

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

  • Fanya
    June 18, 2011 8:01pm

    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.

  • June 18, 2011 9:50pm

    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.

  • June 19, 2011 4:18am

    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…


  • June 19, 2011 6:46am

    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….

  • June 19, 2011 11:41am

    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.

  • Andrea
    June 19, 2011 2:13pm

    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

  • June 19, 2011 2:35pm

    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.

  • Veganista
    June 19, 2011 6:00pm
  • J L G
    June 19, 2011 9:34pm

    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.

  • Gavrielle
    June 20, 2011 8:19am

    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?

  • June 20, 2011 8:11pm

    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;).

  • June 21, 2011 1:05am

    Oh my, that’s amazing! I wanna go to France too :)

  • Aurélien
    June 22, 2011 11:23am

    Good and funny article. Although not so exotic to me as I am french… But I admit I didn’t know all of those.
    Croissants-in-a-can, bring back childhood memories to me. Indeed my mother bought them to allow me the pleasure of making my own croissants, but with the years I tend to find them less and less tastefull… Nothing compares to the fresh baked croissants from the boulangerie down the street (Down MY street anyway, every bakery has its own standards).

    I just wanted to recommend another item even if I am not the first to : The frozen croissants and pains au chocolats from Picard. Really excellent. And the advantage of Picard pains au chocolats over bakers’ is that they are made with butter and not margarine.

    Also Lays cheeseburger-flavored chips ! simply excellent… as a guilty pleasure.

  • Evgeniya
    June 23, 2011 9:43am

    My mother-in-law brought the Alsa Macarons boxes from France [to Russia], and they are actually good! I am not a fan of the comes-in-a-box desserts, but these do taste like the real deal and are very easy to make. You can get the kids involved, and they actually taste better than the macarons you can buy here in Moscow.

    ..but I can see why no one in their right mind would make them at home in France

  • Tula
    June 23, 2011 7:39pm

    The hysteria over corn syrup makes me laugh. It’s just a different variety of sugar and affects your body in much the same way, despite all the paranoia out there. I avoid eating any sort of sugar most of the time (carbs are unhealthy) but do use corn syrup on those special occasions when I make my grandmother’s lollipop recipe and my mom’s Rice Krispy squares (much, much better than the marshmallow version).

  • MelissaBKB
    June 23, 2011 9:49pm

    My host mom bought Harry’s after I asked her if there was any American-like bread at the supermarket (This was just two weeks after I got to France and I was just curious). It took two unpleasant weeks to choke it down, all the while playing up the packaged brioche she had bought before.

    She would also always put out the bagged, artificial crunchy stuff when company came over. It boggled the mind…

    She did not like peanut butter. My host sister, however, really liked the mini Reese Cups my dad shipped for my birthday.

    For my own artificial favorites, I left France with an addiction to Haribo Schtroumpfs and Monoprix’s refrigerated mini chocolate lava cakes. €1.50 for 4! (When I was there in ’06) Amazing!

  • Bronwyn
    June 24, 2011 12:04am

    I second Tula. Corn syrup (as opposed to HFCS) is just liquid glucose. My mother had a jar of the stuff in the kitchen cupboard when she died 50 odd years ago. She decorated wedding cakes for people, and I think it was an ingredient in rolled fondant icing. Even HFCS is chemically pretty much the same as sucrose (ordinary sugar).

    I don’t find the cold pancakes odd either. Here in New Zealand they would be called pikelets, and would be served spread with butter, jam, and maybe a dollop of whipped cream. They are finger food eaten with a cup of tea. Try it, you may be surprised. You might also like to try the childrens’ birthday party version, which is spread with butter and sprinkled with “hundreds and thousands” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hundreds_and_thousands, third photo down).

  • Sara
    June 24, 2011 9:44am

    To add to the chips list, “saveur kebab” is another flavor that makes me just wonder, why?

  • kara
    June 24, 2011 6:16pm

    Croissants in a can. Never used them when I lived in France–but here in the States, I love using the Pillsbury kind to make sticky buns. (Mixture of pecans, brown sugar, cinnamon, and butter in the bottom of a greased pan… then spread the dough with butter, cinnamon, sugar, and more pecans, roll up, slice, and put in the pan…bake and turn over.) Yum.

    One thing I did love was this pudding-like dessert called café liégeois. They were addictively good.

  • aurumgirl
    June 26, 2011 12:43pm

    Corn syrup’s a must when caramelizing sugar, just because it stops the sugar from crystallizing. High Fructose corn syrup may be almost the same chemically as simple corn syrup, but its effects on the body are very different. That’s why there is so much disdain for the product.

    That said, most people want to avoid even the simple corn syrup because most corn used in supermarket products (and we all know corn is in everything in the market) is the genetically modified stuff. It’s getting harder to avoid that as GMO beets have become a relatively new subsidized crop–so even plain old sucrose will be made from something a lot of people want to keep out of their lives.

    There’s honey, though, in a pinch. But no amount of excuse will explain the white bread, though I understand the stuff has been found in landfills wrapped in newspapers bearing dates from 5 decades ago, still intact–and that would justify its ability to “stay fresh”.

  • Sun Jae
    June 28, 2011 2:44pm

    I live in Belgium and I only buy the “American” bread when I need to toast up bread, as I find it “softer” once toasted then a regular loaf. To me, it’s so unatural for bread to keep for weeks. Bread is suppose to get a bit dry and crunchy after 2 days, then you can make pain perdu or even bodding with it (which is a specialty from Brussels made with bread that became too hard to eat with cheese or charcuterie :p ). But you should try the Mamy Nova yaourt entier à la vanille, which is very nice. I’d like to try the chips au goût mystère though, I’ve never seen it over here, must be fun to try out! And by the way, I love pecan pie with corn syrup! But finding corn syrup here is quite an adventure!

  • June 30, 2011 12:18pm

    It’s nice to know that no matter where you are in the world, crimes against national gastronomy happen! Blame it on the globalisation, the tentacle reach of American TV or just the modern age of laziness. The exploding croissant dough in the can was mildly alarming (although no worse than the whole chicken in a can I saw on a TV show a while back). Thanks for taking the bullet on our behalf in the interest of entertainment.

  • June 30, 2011 2:08pm

    Well, I’m italian and I’ve been living in France for one year and some of the most popular french dishes are made with american-bread, for example le Pain Perdu or le Croque Monsier. The thing is just to find the right bread for each kind of recipe/use/situation. What makes me think is why you have to call THAT bread “AMERICAN”, only because you don’t have the daily fresh baked bread culture (as we mostly do in europe) this doesn’t mean that the one who does can’t have industrial bread too, don’t you think so? :)

  • Nari
    July 1, 2011 9:30pm

    I LOVE those Poulet chips! I sure hope that doesn’t make me a traitor to French Cuisine. lol. I haven’t tried the croissant dough in a can in Paris and don’t really like the American ones, but I have to say Pillsbury makes awesome cinnamon rolls in a can. :-) And speaking of peanut butter flavored snacks… I would really like some Bomba right now!

    In the States, by the way, you can fine excellent frozen croissants from William Sonoma. They are mail-order only and not cheap (it IS William Sonoma) but just simply amazing!

  • Ameia
    July 3, 2011 8:54am

    Corn syrup is entirely optional when caramelizing sugar. I never use it and never have any problem making caramel. Where did that misconception begin?

    I never liked French junk food when I lived there. I often ate 3-4 fresh patisseries for lunch, like many French women did,and that was the extent of my culinary depravity.

  • Bubbles
    July 4, 2011 10:12pm

    At least you can FIND real bread and non-canned croissant in your town. You can’t in mine (here in America). The other day I went to the grocery store. I just wanted some bread that, you know, didn’t have dough conditioners, corn syrup and margarine in it. Just the basic ingredients. They surely had over 200 kinds of “bread” but none of them fit this description, including the ones in the “bakery”. And this is the most diverse store in town. I was disgusted and left empty-handed. Very sad.

    Great post!

  • July 6, 2011 3:34pm

    My work required me to leave France 6 months ago and relocate to west Africa. Needless to say, your post has left me VERY ‘homesick’! I used to wander through the big Carrefoure in Thiais just to find similar ‘I can’t believe they sell that in France!!’ products!

    LOVE IT!!!

  • Kai
    July 7, 2011 11:05am

    Great post! When we lived in Brussels, one of the strangest items I saw on the shelf at Makro was a giant red white and blue can of foot-long hot dogs, labeled “AMERICAN STYLE”. Actually, there were lots of canned hot dogs of all sizes there ….

  • Carol McFrland
    July 7, 2011 5:41pm

    I think you shop at the same Monoprix as I do when I am in Paris (on rue St. Antoine) because I’ve seen those items and chuckled at them, too. Reminds me of a trip to G. Detou in May where the gruff counter man handed me sirop de pistache, because I’d become literally speechless under his gaze…and I had really wanted pistachio farine, but was too befuddled to hand it back. Oh well. I proceeded to adapt Eric Kayser’s Tarte au Abricots using the sirop, and it was delicious anyway. Vive le differance!

  • Marian
    July 8, 2011 10:06am

    Oh my goodness! I’ve never seen the packaged pancakes before, however, I do think it’s odd to see pancakes behind the glass in Starbucks. Once one of my old French colleagues told me pancakes aren’t good because she tasted some at Starbucks. :(

  • July 8, 2011 10:21am
    David Lebovitz

    Marian: I’ve learned to some degree that that’s why a lot of foreigners think that American food is bad. They see what is shipped to their country, like Oreo’s, McDonald’s (France is #2, though, in terms of sales for McDonald’s…in the entire world), strawberry Fluff, bottled salad dressings, and other things. Of course, we do eat those things but there are also amazing greenmarkets and restaurants serving terrific food in America. But France, just like the states, has some oddities in their supermarket!

    Carol: I stopped going to that Monoprix because the cashiers are just so rude and miserable that I can’t go back any more. I don’t know why they are so nasty in that store, but I go to another supermarket in my neighborhood where they are actually friendly and helpful.

  • Sara
    July 9, 2011 7:10am

    This seems like a scary development a little bit; the yogurt section being invaded and the chips isle expanding that is! I’m from the US and I’ve only been to Canada otherwise, but I’m a food-crazy and I dream of going to Paris and tasting all the deliciousness for myself! However, if people are buying frickin Harry’s American bread or whatever instead of supporting their local bakeries, the bakers will have no choice but to shut down! Eventually anyways. And that frightens me because I don’t think I’ll be able to go over the pond for at least a few more years, and if I were to then move there but everything is becoming shitty like in America (food-wise anyhow) that’s just horrible! Don’t let it happen! Please! Do whatever you can! I’m sure, being American yourself, you understand my dilemma and fear in this matter??