Food Gifts to Bring French People from America

Dandelion chocolate

Even though globalization has made things pretty available everywhere, and things like Speculoos spread and Fleur de sel can now be found in America, it hasn’t always worked quite the same the other way around. Some American things haven’t made it across the Atlantic and people often think that Americans subsist on junk food because at the stores that cater to expats, and in the “American aisle” at the supermarket, there are things like Strawberry Fluff (which I keep explaining to them that that’s something I’ve never seen in America), boxed macaroni & cheese, caramel-flavored microwave popcorn, bottled salad dressings, and powdered cheesecake mix, which I think I find scarier than they do.

And while there’s nothing wrong with a pour of ranch dressing or a Fluffernutter every now and then (although hold the strawberry-flavor..), those are not exactly the best that America has to offer. I often get asked by folks in the states what kind of things people from America they should bring to their French friends or hosts. And while it’s tempting to bring them something amusing like chocolate cake mix or boxed macaroni and cheese, they don’t see the same humor mixed with nostalgia in them that we do. (And yup, they have boxed cake mixes here too, so they’re not novel.) Peanut butter is also dicey; while we in America devour it, many French folks have an aversion to the flavor of it. Space is also at a premium so while it’s fun to think how delighted they would be to get a 2-gallon drum of “French” salad dressing or red licorice whips from the warehouse store, you’re probably better off devoting that luggage space to something that they’ll actually use and eat.

So if you bring something along, realize that bigger isn’t always considered better here. And although you might be tempted to super-size your purchases, it’s okay to bring modest sized boxes or bags of things. Note that there are a few sweeping cultural references based on generalizations. France, like American, is a diverse nation of people with various tastes. So while there are people in France that do like peanut butter, it just isn’t a popular item here for reasons you should ask your French friends about.

Here are some things I recommend toting along. Of course, if you’re coming from somewhere else, perhaps there are similar things in your country that might be of interest.

maple syrup

Maple Syrup, Honey, and Jam

Although this can be found in natural food stores and supermarkets in France, a bottle is really a true “American” (and Canadian) treat. However French people don’t usually douse their morning croissant or brioche with maple syrup, so a small bottle is sufficient. Suggest they drizzle it over plain yogurt. French people do love honey so if there is a locally produced honey in your area, that’s a neat gift since few of them have tasted honey made in America, such as tupelo or mesquite honey.

There is also a great love of jam in France, however there is a lot of that here already, and most of it is quite good. However if there is something rather special, especially something made with good raspberries or other bushberries like boysenberries or olallieberries, or things made with varietal citrus like Rangpur limes or Meyer lemons – which you don’t come across in France – those would make fine gifts.

marmalade and maple butter

Dried Sour Cherries

These are just starting to appear in specialty markets and cost around €7 for ten cherries. However they’re still novel and most people haven’t heard of them, but do like them when I give them a bag. The ones at Trader Joe’s or American Spoon Foods are always a hit.

Small Offset Spatula

You can now find measuring cups and spoons in kitchenware stores in France, even though they mostly use a scale (un balance) for measuring ingredients. But for some reason, the small offset spatula still eludes them, in spite of the fact that larger ones are available. They only cost about $2.99 and I reach for mine just about every time I bake something. A friend worked at a Michelin 3-star restaurant and noted one of the cooks did brisk business bringing them back from the United States and reselling them to the other cooks.

Rasp Zester

These have come to France, but like dried sour cherries, not that many people have one yet. And they’re also quite pricey, so one of these makes a good gift. You can get them from Microplane and I’m a fan of this one from Oxo.

Heavy-Duty Aluminum Foil

A friend of mine who is a cook, every time I go back to the states, pleads with me, “Please, Daveed. Bring me back that heavy-duty foil. As much as you can carry!” French foil is really thin – you could read Le Monde through it – and rips easily, causing a lot of frustration to cooks. It drives me nuts as well because you can’t reuse it. So make your favorite French cook happy and stock them with the good stuff.

askinosietheo Patric Chocolate

Bean-to-Bar Chocolate

The bean-to-bar chocolate movement not a widely known concept in France. Yes, there are some great chocolate companies, but if ask most people if they know of any of the small producers of chocolate, you’ll likely get a blank stare. There is also a view that American chocolate is all commercial and bad (and some is, and some isn’t), but in the past decade or so, there are nearly two dozen chocolate-makers in America that have been making some interesting bas. So a few choice tables would be of interest if your hosts or friends have open minds about trying some new, handcrafted chocolate.

dried fruit

California Dried Apricots

I used to tell people to bring California dried apricots (well, at least to me) because I love how tart and tangy they are in comparison to their sweet Mediterranean counterparts. Then I realized after giving them to some French friends, they were often too-tangy for their tastes.

But the spectrum of dried fruits in America is pretty amazing, and things like dried black figs, blueberries, sour cherries (mentioned above), cranberries, and curiosities like dried pluots are virtually non-existent in France. (Yes, I snuck in “virtually” because although you sometimes can find them, they’re still quite uncommon.) Your local farmer’s market will likely have some, Trader Joe’s, or natural food stores.

American Cheese

It might seem folly to bring American cheese (not the stuff individually wrapped in the supermarket) to France, but a lot of French people will never have the chance to try one because they’re not imported. English cheeses are starting to make inroads in France, but an interesting chèvre from California or a blue cheese would make a nice gift for someone who was open-minded about cheese from outside of France.

macadamia nuts

Macadamia Nuts

These are one of those curiosities that have sort of taken off in Paris. They’re rare, and pricey in France, and have a certain cachet. The chocolate-covered ones I would stay away from, or the candied ones, as French people don’t seem to be as fond of overly sweetened candied things as some folks in America are. (Which is why if you’re bringing candy corn to Paris, it’d better be for me.)

Rancho Gordo beans

Heirloom Beans

I’ve gifted a bag of these heirloom beans to more French friends than anything else. Dried beans are pretty commonly used and available in France, but most are just the standard varieties. Interesting varieties are the Good Mother Stallard, Christmas limas, Scarlet runner from Rancho Gordo, which are variegated and are unusual. Go to a natural food store for a good selection.

California Wine

When I moved to France from California, I was always surprised when French people would say to me, “Oh, California. The wine there is very, very good.” I like California wine myself, but I didn’t understand why anyone from France would be praising California wine so highly. Most aren’t easily available here and although a number of people do visit the states, it wasn’t until I asked a French caviste why French people think so highly of California wine. “Most of them have never tasted it. They’re just saying that because they’re heard it’s good” he told me. Am not sure how true that is or not, but varieties that are somewhat unique to America, like Zinfandel (not the white stuff) are interesting. Most other states make wine, too. So perhaps check out some local labels from places closer to home to bring over, instead. French people also like whiskey (whisky), so if you know someone who will appreciate it, that makes a good gift as well.

Pecans

The French have taken to noix de pecan rather feverishly. However most of the times I’ve bought them, they’re unpleasantly over-the-hill. My guess is that they don’t turn over as quickly as they do in the states, where we bake heavily with them. So a bag of whole pecans is a welcome gesture.

chocolate chips

Chocolate Chips

A growing number of desserts in Paris have chocolate chips tumbling out of them, not to mention the classic, les cookies. Yet if you want some to bake them at home, a tiny bag of pépites chocolat containing what looks to be a dozen or so chocolate chips inside, will set you back more euros than one could imagine. Since “Le cookies” have caught on in France, a bag or two or semisweet morsels makes a nice gift and will save someone some major euros.



There are probably a few things I missed. But if any French people have any particular cravings, or what kinds of things you’d like visitors to bring, let us know in the comments. We’ll stock you up.

(And don’t forget to return the favor in l’autre direction!)



Related Posts

10 Things to Bring Back From Your Trip to Paris

10 Goofy Foods You’ll Find in French Supermarkets

10 Insanely Delicious Things You Shouldn’t Miss in Paris

Bringing Food Home From France



Note: When you travel to France, do be sure to check what can and can’t be brought into the country or the European Union. Also be aware that the information can change. You’ll find information at:

-What should I know about French customs? (About.com)

-French Border Rules (Douane.gov)

201 comments

  • Brown sugar can be found in all the large chain supermarkets in France: Leclerc, Marche’U, Geant, or Carrefour. Brown sugar is called “sucre vergoise” and comes in two depths of color. Light brown is called “blonde”, Dark brown is called “amber” or “cuivre”. Cassonade is also a reasonable substitute for brown sugar and Melasse in granules is a very dark sugar that has a similar sandy texture like what we know as brown sugar. That said, melasse has a very strong taste so it would be best to go with the sucre vergoise. “Daddy” brand makes this kind of sugar.

  • Brown sugar is known as sucre vergoise in France. It comes in two varieties, Light brown(Blonde) or Dark brown( Ambre). Cassonade is also comparable to brown sugar. Melasse in granules is the texture of very dark brown sugar. You can find these in any Leclerc, Marche’ U, Geant, or Carrefour. These are chain stores and exist all over France.

  • Wow, this article is fantastic! I’ve been immersed in reading up for our upcoming Paris trip and so happy to have found your blog!

    It was a relief to see “mac nuts” on your list because I already had them on my shopping list. I had planned to buy from Costco one tub each of assorted mac nut packets and chocolate-covered mac nut packets to make gift bags.

    I loved the comment about Spam!! Gave me a chuckle because I’m from Hawaii…the Spam-loving State. And YES I slice it up thin and fry it crisp. We also fry lightly and put them on top of formed rice (“spam musubis”) or julienned in fried rice with green onions (with soy sauce and sesame oil).

  • If you have the room, a Whirly-Pop stove top popcorn popper! Many of my french friends have taken them back after using it at my house – Despite the size, they are extremely light, so you can pack them fairly easily in luggage if you fill them w/clothing (before the first use of course!)

    Things I have been asked to bring back – PAM and american style mustard (!) I don’t get it. (And I don’t bring aerosol PAM anymore since I realized it’s essentially an explosion in a can….)

  • One thing I’d love to get from friends coming to N.Y. from France is the Bigelow or Twining’s,(can’t remember which of them it is), Caramelized Pear(The’ Poire Caramelise’ ) tea. We get it in every grocery store in France but even though they have the same brand over here, they don’t have this particular flavor tea. I bring back as much as I can but it’s never enough to tide me over for six months!

  • When I went to Paris this past October, I had to schlep beef jerky, carrot cake mix and Kashi cereal for French friends. I more than filled up my luggage going back with rillettes, Haribo candy, Monoprix crackers, and cheese…

  • Speaking of varietal citrus, the next time you’re in the Bay Area (or within range so the shipping doesn’t kill you), please treat yourself to the goodies offered by Kensington Marmalade Co. (http://www.kensingtonmarmalade.com/). Her Stafford’s Picnic Jam is my favorite and her drink mixers (Bearss Lime, Blood Orange, Rangpur Lime…) can’t be beat.

    • It’s pretty amazing all the varieties of citrus in California. I did once find a place in Provence that delivers unusual citrus (like citrons) but it felt funny mail ordering fruit fruits so I never did. Love all those fragrant and unusual limes, too.

  • Add to that list Almond Rocas, bagels, cool shaped erasers (kids love that), Sees candies (the nuts), panko, snack size zip lock bags, and the lists goes on…

    • Funny that you mention those snack-size zip-top bags because I bought some by accident in the states once, and brought them back and realized they were “snack” size – but I use them (and reuse them) all the time! I did bring some See’s candy to a friend that has a chocolate and candymaking shop here in Paris. It was funny. I think he liked the Almond brittle (although I wish they still put the little hammer in there) but next time, I’m going to bring him molasses chips.

  • As an Australia I must say I have heard of a lot of American stuff that is mystifying to me. The most confusing is when recipes call for ‘a can of cookie dough’ that is not a thing in Australia!!!

    I am amused by the suggestion of Heavy-Duty Aluminum Foil, it’s like how I can’t get what I consider normal baking paper in the UK. Baking paper should not be brown!!

  • having just returned from paris to meet my first grand child and help my daughter I agree with the french foil thing…..its worthless…..also really needed ziplock bags of all sizes and I brought over 2 bottles of zout….the best stain remover in spray form that i cant live without…..and the pralined pecans i had made were quite well received

  • @Explody Full – I live in the UK and the parchment paper here is off white – have never seen any that is brown. I have also never seen a recipe calling for a can of cookie dough.

    Good tin foil is available in Lidl stores in the UK and, I presume, in Europe, as Lidl stores are German.

  • Hey David!
    I have a question about the chocolate bread recipe. I wanted to ask it in the comments of the recipe in the site, but I can’t comment there for some reason, si I hope it’s ok that I ask here: On step 8, I need to preheat the oven 10 minutes prior to baking. If the oven isn’t preheated enough [and has reached 180/350 degrees], should I put the loaf in the oven anyway? I know that generally you put things in a properly preheated oven, but: 1) the specified “10 minutes” got me thinking. 2) I have seen bread recipes where you put the loaf in a cold oven, and then turn the heat up.
    Thanks!

    • That indication is just to make sure that people pre-heat the oven before you bake it – so yes, it should be at the full baking temperature. (Most ovens take about 10 minutes to preheat but if yours takes longer, just preheat it before the time indicated.)

  • I imagine that in some part of the world parchment paper is brown rather than (bleached) white. It shouldn’t matter. I notice that Trader Joe’s excellent (and cheap compared to Melitta) cone coffee filters are brown. Makes no difference – in fact some say the bleach used to bleach the white paper comes through in their coffee.

    Ten minutes to preheat my oven became just a suggestion when I ended up with a built-in oven that takes longer. An oven thermometer is a must. And they are cheap.

  • I always bring nuts from California Farmer’s markets, Humboldt Fog cheese and I look for a local digestive. A grappa, or some other type of digestive. It’s easier to pack and lasts a bit longer.

    Some California wineries now make grappas.

  • David, Fyi, the OXO grater that you linked to on Amazon is currently unavailable (they say they’re unsure when/if it’ll be available again).

  • David, if you would like some FRESH Texas pecan, just picked off the ground, let me know. I would love to send you some. I love your blog!

  • Michele — I had a smorgasbord of pecans, too! The secret is to go up on the roof where no one else is looking. ;)

    David — While we’re on the topic of French customs, is it true that in France, daily sunlight exposure is protected by law? ::she asks from her cubicle:: That just may be the impetus to relocate…

    • Just to add my two cents: In Brittany, where I spend half the year, sunlight is forbidden for most of the months between May and October. I think there is an obscure article in the French constitution that mentions this. I think it had to do with someone incurring the wrath of the government by wearing their scarf badly folded but this cannot be confirmed. Back to food: all my friends want Fox’s U-Bet syrup ever since I turned them on to “zee egg cream”
      !

  • I have seen the pink fluff, though I don’t know anyone who has ever tried it more than once. Fluff is a very northeast thing, I’ve heard, and it comes eastern Massachusetts. Maybe there’s a small group of Bostonian expats who really love that pink stuff! An interesting homage to Fluff

    I’m surprised by the people complaining that they can’t find non-brown parchment paper (IE non-bleached). I wish I could find it more easily in the US! I’d prefer to keep the bleached products away from things that I’m ingesting.

    • I live in Somerville, MA, the birthplace of fluff, and I’ve never heard of pink fluff. Admittedly, I’ve never gone to the annual “What The Fluff” festival though.

  • Thanks to you and all 138 comments, I just added another page to my list of things to bring back to Paris…

    Beside that one comment on Bourbon, what other alcohol should I bring back?

  • I lived in Paris for a semester in college and became friendly with a French family there. When my mom came over to visit, all they asked was for her to bring Cream Cheese!

    They had lived in the US for a few years. My mother, who went to such great lengths, to try to keep the cream cheese cool during her flight to Paris, was horrified to learn that they just tossed the cream cheese in their suitcases and retrieved it on the other side…Refrigeration practices – that’s a major way the French and Americans differ!

    • Philadelphia cream cheese is now stocked in Leclerc, Marche’ U and other large food chains in France. You have to look carefully, however, as somebody decided to stock a new variety with bits of cucumber. If you’re planning to do cheesecake it wouldn’t behoove you to use this!

  • Cream cheese – the temperature of the hold where the suitcases are kept are equal to any fridge.

  • good to know! it’s hard to imagine anything being better in america than in france, based on reputation. but then there is a great variety of amazing food in america…we just don’t always do it justice, i think. that said i remember wowing/disgusting my french family with boxed jell-o mix. they found the wiggly stuff quite spooky indeed.

    • There is some very good stuff in America (and not-so-good – just like in most countries) and I think it’s fun to do some cross-cultural exchanges foodwise. It’d admittedly easier to find things in America, including French items, but other countries don’t see some of the good things that come out of the states, so it’s interesting to share what we’re doing well. As mentioned, most of the shops and so forth that cater to expats in France often are filled with packages cookies, cake mixes, etc. that ship and store well. And sure, those are a part of the American food culture, but there are some good things as well.

      (Funny that your French family found Jell-o spooky, because things like aspic, oeuf en gelée are pretty common and aren’t considered oddities, and the French have dessert gelées… although they have admittedly fallen out of favor, I think.)

  • David, I love your blog and books! I have a cousin who lives in Spain, and we trade vinegars. I live in the Hudson River Valley in New York, where we have many local wineries and orchards, and there are a lot of local wines and vinegars infused with all kinds of herbs, fruits and berries. Apple butter, lemon and lime butters and pumpkin butters are appreciated too. I don’t know if they are available in Paris.

  • the problem with chocolate chips is so true, I’ve never seen them in any supermarket in Germany before :( talk about some decent chocolate chips cookies…

  • Oh my, so many thoughts on all this. We live in haute savoy and all the food i cannot get here,winter squash, anyone, pinto beans,maltex, a less than half starved chicken,smoked ham butt,real corn on the cob. White fluff for rice krispy squares,they love them, marshmallows here way too sweet. Cottage cheese,cheddar cheese and big tubs of hummus, I cannot seem to make my own. haddock in larger fillets but have finally found scallops that are not 60 € a kilo.
    I can find canadian maple syrup for a price. We have the miles of sweets aisle covered, wine no problem.
    Funny how food is always the “thing” but would change nothing and will keep chocolate chips in mind as gifts.

  • When you said “American Cheese” I thought for a moment you meant the awful pasteurized cheese-like product that is sometimes called “American Cheese”. I’m relieved that’s not what you meant. BTW, for legal reasons “processed cheese product” cannot be labeled “cheese”, at least not in the US. So even though many people call it “American Cheese” that is not what it says on the package. I’ve lived in several places in America that are proud of their cheese and it’s good to think that our real cheese would be appreciated.

    When I have hosted visitors they often tell me that they were warned that Americans don’t cook and will likely not even own a cutting board. It’s funny, but sad. I always try to make really traditional American foods for them like pot pie and chili so they see what real American food is, even though for my family I often cook more internationally (sushi, empanadas etc.).

    • When I have friends over in France I always make American food. A typical lunch would be baby back ribs, homemade coleslaw with my own relish,(I had to learn how to make my own version of sweet pickle relish as it was unobtainable in France), potato salad, lemon meringue pie and bloody marys to go with it! Sometimes, I’ll do American apple pie, as opposed to tarte Tatin. They love it and always ask for the recipe. I use creme fraiche for sour cream and it tastes fine.

  • I live in the UK, and I have this problem when visiting friends in France and Italy. Some things have been well received, such as Stilton cheese, port (some very good ones find their way here); and people have requested some unexpected items – ‘pudding’, and Chinese instant noodles. Good soy sauce can be hard to find in some places, too.

  • Just found something wonderful to take back to France for my friends who love new flavors: Jars of wasabi-coated sesame seeds. They’re very intense, with a crunchy,salty-sweet spiciness. I’m going to keep some for myself,too, and use it as a salad topper, mix it into cream cheese for a dip and try it in cracker recipes. I found it in a little Japanese deli on Spring St. in Soho but there’s a website: http://www.ajishima.net that I plan to look into in case I need to track down some more!

  • Great list David! I have found heavy duty foil here, but it’s super heavy duty and super skinny so doesn’t cover my baking dishes, so I still have to clean up a sticky mess. I think I saw some at Bon Marche that looked amply large and thick, but of course, it cost a fortune! I would add to the list the ziploc disposable tupperwares which I’ve found once at the Bon Marche, but never again after. I cook lots, and end up giving away lots of tupperware… they never seem to find their way back. I’ve found some ‘disposably’ priced ones at the verrerie des halles, but they don’t seal or freeze as well as the ziplocs. And if anyone wants to bring me pecans, I’ll cook them a great meal. This Louisiana girl will take and use as much as you can bring.

    • The other thing that I’ve not seen mentioned here is the lack of good cling-wrap! The brands I get in France either don’t cling at all or the stuff sticks to itself instantly and can’t be pried apart! Now that you all mention the aluminum foil that, and Glad Wrap will find themselves in my luggage! Thanks, all, for this great thread!

  • And mexican anything. I would give my left (what body part do i need least?) For some dried or canned mexican chillies, posole, good tortilla chips and fresh salsa.

  • What a great list. I”m from Canada and when we visit our French friends we often take maple products (maple sugar, maple syrup, maple candy, maple cookies, maple mustard etc). One time we went a bit overboard and everything was maple flavoured – it was a bit embarrassing. The things they really like are flavoured popcorn, Jelly Belly jellybeans, store bought cookies (the better ones – not Oreos), and cans of nuts. I have also taken pancake mix and wild rice.

  • We travel back and forth to Rennes annually now and we have a particular family who’s daughter loves peanut butter so we bring that all the time. We’ve also found that american style barbeque is popular with a lot of our French friends so we’ve brought bottles of good bbq sauce and dry rub powder.

  • David, thanks for the advice on the molasses. Sure enough, I found it at the nice little natural foods store in Bourbon l’Archambault (pop. 2571)!!

    And Parisbreakfast, I bought a lemon reamer at IKEA. But I don’t see it there now….just this: http://www.ikea.com/fr/fr/catalog/products/00152164/

  • Root beer! All my French friends who have tasted it, hate it. They say it is “infecte”. It cuts me to the quick…LOL…I love root beer.

    For the people looking for cranberries, try “airelles”, found in jars. Same family as cranberries, same flavor. Not the same impact for color and size though.

    Rolls of fabric softener sheets for dryers is what my friends in France asked for.

    • I love root beer, too, and have heard “infecte” more than once when people taste something far removed from the flavors they’re used to. That said, people who happily ingest creatures that I find crawling on my garden walls and around my ponds simply because the garlic butter they’re drenched in tastes good can’t afford to use the term without a hefty spoonful of irony! I’ll take a frosted glass of root beer over snails any day.

      • @Betsy: I’m still laughing !!! Thanks ! The words “borné” and “arriéré” come to mind, but we all have our prejudices, and I get away with it because in fact I really do love these people, even if they do use square pillows.

        • @Kathy D.: I’m always afraid my sassiness vis a vis the French will get me in a peck ‘o trouble. I’ve been married to a Breton for almost 33 years. He never could learn english so I speak french 24/7 at home. Suffice it to say, I spend inordinate amounts of time slinging one-liners in english to all and sundry on the internet. That, and cooking keep me sane! Glad if I made you laugh but after many years spent trying to coax my country neighbors into trying culinary exotica I had time to develop a strong sense of the absurd. I enjoy experimenting with different spices,herbs,and condiments but when someone turns their nose up at my cooking while lauding the pancreas and intestines of farm animals I have to suppress major eye-rolling! I’m by no means a culinary chauvinist but, quand meme…! Meanwhile, I keep trolling the aisles of Leclerc, Marche’ U and Geant for products that lend themselves to U.S. recipes.

    • I can’t imagine root beer appealing to French tastes, but I was just talking about Dr Pepper with a friend with a food truck in Paris and she said she sells a ton of Dr Pepper (which was something I didn’t think French people would like – I don’t like it either, although I love root beer..) I had bought those airelles, which they sell at Picard around the holidays and they’re good, but not the same as cranberries. (I think they are lingonberries, in English?) You can find fresh cranberries in France but they’re aren’t inexpensive. If I see them for a reasonable price, I buy and freeze them.

      Surprised about the fabric softener because so few people have driers (although that may only be in Paris, where space is at a premium) – but people here like heavily scented laundry products (I don’t) so I can see their appeal.

      • I agree about the airelles not being anything like cranberries. I’ve only seen dried cranberries in small and somewhat price-y,(considering the size), bags. I wonder where you saw fresh cranberries in France. I’d love to have them for my recipes.

  • Thank you for this wonderful list & website. I’ll be heading to Paris for my first visit in April and this makes me wish we were visiting friends. Now I just need to decide which items I must leave space in my suitcase to bring back home to N. California!

  • Betsy….if we could keep in touch, maybe we could update each other on culinary finds? I’m smack in the middle of the country (village of 300, very agricultural) and so I’m thrilled when I find something. A Grand Frais recently opened in Moulins, so I’m thrilled. Have you seen these stores? At any rate, perhaps if we used David as intermediary, we could trade email addresses. That is, if David doesn’t mind…:)

    • @Kathy D.: I wouldn’t like to bother David with private correspondence but I’m on facebook as Betsy Busch and you can contact me that way!

      • Thanks!! We won’t bother David. And David, I just want to repeat again how much I love what you do for all of us with your website, and Twitter posts. You make me smile every day.

  • I recently married a frenchman and my new family requests the following on trips back from the states: Cornbread mix, pecans, maple syrup, Butterfingers, Louisiana pure cane syrup, tortillas, and Slap Ya Mama Cajun seasoning mix. The children are also huge fans of mustard flavored pretzels or “bretzels” as they are called here. I would also like to suggest bringing specialty vinegars from the states because I’ve never met anyone in France who uses bottled salad dressing and the variety of vinegars available in the states is astounding…terragon vinegar, champagne vinegar, raspberry vinegar, etc.

    If you’re visiting an American, we want tortillas and green chiles.

  • Just want to say how much I enjoy your blog, too, David. I always used to think I was alone in obsessing about the products I couldn’t find in Brittany. I do lots of French and Breton recipes but when the mood hits and I have to find ingredients or substitutes for recipe necessities you’re my “go to” site!! Thanks for all the great photos and info!

  • Things I can’t find in France: kosher salt, masa harina (can be ordered online, but very expensive), pinto beans, cream of tartar.

    • Could you substitute coarsely-ground polenta for the masa harina? I have a feeling you could. I’ve seen a lot of beans and different kinds of products in the Biocoop stores in Brest. I wonder if they’re all over France or just in the Finistere area? Google it and see if it can be substituted.

      • I’m afraid not. Masa harina is a powdered form of hominy masa, which is made from “nixtamalized” hominy: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Masa It has a unique flavor found in Mexican corn tortillas. I also use it in other baked products. There are various corn “flours” used in various other hispanic cuisines (Central & South America, Caribbean), but not treated in the same way. And masa harina is very finely ground.

        As for the beans, I brought bags of pinto beans with me and planted some in my garden, so for the time being I have some. There is a bean somewhat similar, eaten in Portugal and Italy, I think they are “cocos roses” (borlotti in Italy), and the bag was labeled “pinto beans”, but they are not. I bought them at Carrefour, and they are good, but not pintos.

        Lots of Betsy Buschs on Facebook….yours has a photo?

        • You can get masa harina in Paris at Boca Mexa on the rue Mouffetard and L’Epicerie de Bruno, which also does mail order.

          • Thanks David ! And Betsy, thanks anyway for the suggestion….always welcome, and always fun to exchange information with people who love to cook.

        • @Kathy D. Interesting to know about the nuances of hominy. I don’t use it that often but I’m not a stickler for authenticity in my recipes so when I use a substitute and it’s not exactly “comme il taut” I simply lie through my teeth and say that’s the way it’s supposed to taste according to our family’s recipe! I’m the Betsy Busch with the photo taken standing on a stone wall. A wall that no longer exists since Hurricane Sandy destroyed it! Glad I have the photo and the memory. Hope to hear from you and good luck with the masa harina search.

  • Thanks, Kathy D. You can contact me directly and we can discuss expat life without turning David’s blog into a personal chat room. He does a wonderful service as it is and I love his posts. Look forward to hearing from you on Facebook.

  • David, HELP !! I have a cook blog, and I would like to post the recipe of “Gateau aux petits beurres”.
    Can you tell me please if it exists an equivalent to those little cakes in USA, please ?
    Thank you very much for your help.

    • Just noticed a number of recipes on the internet for “Gateau aux petits beurres”. Petite Beurre cookies can be found in the U.S.,(at least in New York), and most of the recipes I looked at seemed to consist of layers of the cookies filled with a cream. The assembled cake was then chilled. We do similar things with cookies in the USA but it should be known that if using eggs in the cream filling preparation there is a chance of salmonella so I think the recipe should be adapted to cook the filling before using it even if it takes a bit longer.

  • Thank you for your help, Betsy :)

  • Nice list! Most of those would work to gift to Italians, too :)

    • A chocolate-maker who went frequently to parts of the world where cocoa beans are sourced told me Fair Trade on a label meant absolutely nothing. I don’t know if one chocolate company designation (or coffee company, or other companies pushing Fair Trade products) is mor implicated or not. In related news, here’s another piece on Theo chocolate.

  • Great post!!! Living here in Geneve, Switzerland (from Seattle, Wa) there are things we thought we would miss from the US- but have certainly found superior alternatives. Even eating a Snickers bar or M&M’s here is different as the chocolate they use in them is competing against some of the higher end craft chocolates that the Swiss are used to. We were recently back in the states & bought a bag of peanut M&M’s & the chocolate literally had a plastic/fake flavor to it. We are going back to the states this weekend for 2 weeks in Hawaii (my home state) & reading this post I have some new ideas of what I want to bring back for some of our Swiss friends- great ideas for sure. Costco is a great resource to good things- they have VERY strict QC standards- their vanilla extract & maple syrup are 2 of my most favorite. (I was a seafood supplier to Costco & know how they are) Thank you David- really love your blog & hope to meet you one day.

  • First off: I live in the US and have never seen a recipe that calls for canned cookie dough. Seriously, I never have seen this. It must be an Australian thing.

    Regarding American Cheese: There actually is real cheese (very mild, but actually quite good) that is called American Cheese. It is not a processed cheese. It used to be available at food banks that gave away government food and was available in large blocks. I have run into a similar cheese recently, but it wasn’t as good and was low fat. What a pity!

  • Todd: Hiya! I sure hope you see this. I’ve been hoping to contact someone in Switzerland! For literally decades I’ve been searching for a certain chocolate bar that we bought on a trip in 1976. I don’t know the brand name, but it looks like those Lindt chocolate bars that they sell here. BTW, I’m on Kauai (born on the Big Island, raised in Honolulu, then moved here).

    So ok this is the chocolate bar I’m looking for: It’s a chocolate bar with orange SLICES placed on top of the chocolate. I believe the bar itself is milk chocolate, but the orange slices are covered in dark chocolate. Or it could be vice versa. Anyway, the key is the orange slices which are thinly sliced and dried first. OH MY GOD, it’s the best candy I’ve ever tasted.

    Have you seen them and if so, how/where could I order them. Or at least, what company makes them? I’ve been searching the internet for years. I went to Paris and searched the stores there too.

    Keeping my fingers crossed!

  • Is there GUAVA jelly in France? Or passionfruit?

  • Thanks, David. Great list. I have wracked my brains for years for appropriate hostess gifts. It occurred to me that the only things still manufactured in the US are cigarettes and booze. So I started stocking up on good quality liquors–bourbon, tequila, and some of the small-batch things like Hangar 1vodka and Old Potrero gin. They were a big success, until I started hearing that all the recipients were alcoholics and I was hastening them to their graves and pissing off their wives.

    Though I first tasted homemade jam in France, very few French people have the time or inclination. I brought some last time, which hit all the buttons of américain, fait-maison, and éxotique (I brought things like blackberry and nectaplum, a hybrid of plum and white nectarine.) I think I’ll try macadamia nuts and dried cherries next time.

  • Thanks for the great ideas! My friend in France always asks for shelled sunflower seeds. She says they’re “genial”.

  • this was such a fun post to read! i lived in paris for 10+ years prior to moving to NY (where its now almost been 3 years for me) so reading this was like looking at things ‘in reverse’. I find the pecans & macadamia to be a fantastic idea. the demand chocolate chips (although not my personal fave) is totally understandable. Other thoughts I have in mind:

    A nice jar of Peanut Butter should also do the trick :)
    Anything with cranberries
    Canned pumpkin puree! I have countless friends who desperately request for this!
    Non-food related: Carmex or Burt’s Bees lipbalm! Overpriced in France!

  • David,

    Your mention of strawberry fluff got me thinking. The real deal “Fluff”, not the Kraft brand you show in some of your posts was invented in Lynn, MA. It is heavenly! They make three favors, plain vanilla fluff, strawberry and raspberry. One of our closest friends grew up in Lynn and told us about “Fluff”, about ten years ago. Since it is not sold in New Mexico, I called the company and ordered it. (They now have a website, so ordering is much easier.) Fluff is not gritty like the Kraft brand and is not made with all the garbage that is in the Kraft brand. It is simply wonderful and making fudge with Fluff will change the way you look at the stuff. We now get a regular shipment of Fluff in all three favors. We give it as gifts to our friends with children and our daughter eats it with Peanutbutter on graham crackers. The Fluff company also has a little recipe book you can purchase full of everything and anything you can make with the stuff. There is even a “Fluff Festival” in autumn, which we plan to attend before our daughter starts college. We travel a great deal and one of my favorite things to do when traveling is stopping at local food chains and little Mom and Pop stores to see what things they sell. I always end up with a bag or two of new products when we get home. On our last trip to the North East, I noticed more and more stores carrying Fluff and even in the strawberry and raspberry flavors. So, I encourage you to try “Fluff,” it is truly an American Gem.

  • Wonderful suggestions and I think my Italian relatives would enjoy these suggestions as well. Who knew that heavy duty foil could be such a prize.
    Thank you David.

  • Thank you David! I will keep this list handy when I next visit France (I travel there often). I am always wondering what to bring to my lovely French friends (I don’t eat Fluff or other similarly processed foods, so this list gives me lots of ideas). I make my own jam and have many afficianados there of my Bing Cherry/Rasberry Jam, as well as Marion Berry Jam and get many requests to bring when I come. But I really like the idea of some of the Free Trade Chocolates, nuts, seeds and dried fruits. I also would have never thought of those dried, heirloom beans, but I think that will be my next “hostess gift” on my next trip. Your blog is the best and I absolutely love your recipes! Keep up the good work and I hope to meet you sometime on my travels. Oh, the way you describe how people in Paris walk into you, almost force you off the sidewalk, into puddles, or against buildings: it is not only “done that way in Paris” — it is a daily “game” in Boston as well. I am currently walking with a cane and that only gives more points to the ways to stop me, force me to give way, or bump into subway turnstiles, doors, walls, you get the picture!

  • As an Australian, I’m always asked to bring food that is either unique to Australia or Asia, as we get a lot if the spices/marinades that may not be available elsewhere.

    I’m asked to bring crème of tartar, Tim Tams, crunchy peanut butter, Nutri Grain (cereal), vegemite (although I hate it), Alpine Farm jams/marmalades/sauces (the flavours are amazing), Macadamias (which are pretty cheap comparatively), Asian spices/marinades/sauces, chilli schnapps, Australian flavoured chocolate (Kimberley’s, Haigh’s) – chilli/lemon myrtle/Kakadu plum/Australian limes, chocolate chips (especially dark), Limegrove Lime Cordial as it always goes down well in Summer and last but not least I take Manuka Honey.

    If the gift is a food related, I generally give a recipe to go with it such as Caramelised Macadamia & Camembert.

    Canned cookie dough is not Australian. We have one American brand of cookie dough in the chilled section and dry mix (like cake mix).

    On the flip side bringing food into Australia is limited due to Quarantine (we are very protective of our borders). Chocolates is generally fine as a gift or alternatively a boutique wine/spirit. Declare or beware.

  • Too funny: I went to Safeway today. I found some dried cherries then went to the jam/jelly aisle to look for guava or passionfruit jam. I needed some peanut butter for ourselves and what caught my eye? BISCOFF SPREAD. Yup, at Safeway in Hawaii. Darn darn, I had planned to bring some home from Paris as gifts. Oh well, if I can’t find better gifts or don’t have room in my suitcase, I’ll come back from Paris, go to Safeway and buy that. After all, I doubt any of my friends have ever tried it. BTW..I bought a jar and YUMMMM!

  • In a class I am currently taking I learned that it was competition held in Paris in 1976 where French judges carried out two blind tasting comparisons: one of top-quality Chardonnays and another of red wines from France and California. A California wine rated best in each category. This competition literally put California wines on the map. This was a surprise in France as they are known to be the producer of the world’s best wines. But this may be a reason why now they ask for California wine –some of it is pretty good.