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 15, 2011 9:22am

    looks pretty normal to me. i wish we could get Pre-Packaged Vanilla Crêpes in the supermarket in Sydney :-)

  • Matilda
    June 15, 2011 9:33am

    Pre-made pancakes are available in Australia too… we used to spred them with butter and 100’s and 1000’s (sprinkles) and serve for afternoon tea when we were kids and Mum was away.
    Mystery chips sound exciting.

  • deadlock
    June 15, 2011 9:44am

    Well, from what I’ve seen here in Switzerland, they buy the American sandwich bread because it’s “bigger”. So, there.

  • June 15, 2011 9:46am

    Will you do a similar post on 10 goofy foods you can find in a US supermarket? That should be fun. I recently read about candwich being introduced in US – a sandwich in a can. Re # 10 I’ve seen similar things in other countries – producers using the American brand to boost sales. The same bread may sell less if its called ‘English Bread’.

  • deadlock
    June 15, 2011 9:47am

    Also what’s interesting is we don’t have any of these products here in neighboring Switzerland. There are par-baked croissants, but they don’t have a long shell-life span, so I’m guessing they are probably more fresh. And I had to order corn syrup from an online American foods shop for expats, it was nowehere to be found. No chicken flavored chips, no nothing. Man, are we ever deprived here. Not.

  • June 15, 2011 10:06am

    Hysterical. The sad thing is, in my poor town, most people are buying only processed, pre-packaged food like this! Where is Jamie Oliver when you need him.

  • June 15, 2011 10:13am

    I remember from when I was living in France, most students bought the Harry’s bread because it stays ‘fresh” soooo long….. for me that was the reason why I never bought it……
    and those pop out the box croissants are (at least in the Netherlands) mainly used by kids…. for them it is WOW I can imagine that ;-)

  • June 15, 2011 10:19am

    Great post. Seeing that package of cracked-open croissant dough, I had a total flashback of making Pillsbury “crescent rolls” with my mom. Back then, the most fun was the dough popping out.
    These days, I can’t get over my shock when I see French people buying viennoiseries or Harry’s bread at the supermarket. How much time/money can they be saving?

  • June 15, 2011 10:20am

    We often have a loaf of Harry’s bread in our freezer in case we suddenly need bread for something and can’t get into the village to get to the baker or it is inexplicably closed but it is pretty revolting – I find it far, far too sweet. But I do love the snack food aisle…

  • Olivia
    June 15, 2011 10:25am

    The ultimate pre packaged food crime must be the falafel dry mix in a box. Just add water…yuk.

  • June 15, 2011 10:29am

    How great to rediscover my country through your eyes! Although I love your recipes, I also love the way you write on France in general and food in particular. This article is no exception.
    It’s funny I did not know most of the goofy food you’re talking about… I mean who would dare buying pre-made dough to make croissants?
    Other than that, the items you’re dealing with all show how lazy we are getting… Yogurt is far too “plain” but a crème caramel et chocolat may sound “lighter” than a Paris-Brest, right!

    Anyway, thank you for these telling observations!

    [Ah and two itsy bitsy mistakes you made: “peignoir de bain” and “hexagone”]

  • June 15, 2011 10:30am

    As far as the croissants go, living out in the country with a 5 minute drive to the nearest bakery (10 minutes if you want a good one!) I can see the appeal of the frozen and packaged croissants (have you ever tried the frozen ones from Picard?? YUM!)
    I have also never understood the adoration of the peanut puffs for apero considering they turn up their noses to peanut butter – it tastes the same!!!

    As far as the “yogurts” you HAVE to try the Mamie Nova chocolate mint – I swear it’s like eating a Thin Mint Girl Scout cookie – heaven!!!

  • ZS
    June 15, 2011 10:45am

    The NY Times ran an article about Harry’s Bread and its founder a couple years ago:

  • Delphine
    June 15, 2011 10:45am

    I used to love Harry’s bread … it’s sweet for one thing, so kids like it I think. And then, the slices are indeed “bigger” than other breads, so you can make gigantic sandwiches ! :-)
    We always used to have some as a back-up at home, in case my parents couldn’t find or were too late to buy the usual baguette.

    As for pre-packaged crepes, they’re very popular in Brittany. Plain ones though, no flavoring. We eat them for breakfast, some people spread salted butter on them, or jam.
    It’s actually one of the “delicacies” we bring back home after holidays in France (we now live in England).

  • Janet
    June 15, 2011 10:48am

    les macarons Alsa : don’t even mention !

  • Elemjay
    June 15, 2011 10:55am

    Is it wrong to say that I love roast chicken flavour crisps? But then in my defence I am English and my country leads the world in random flavours for crisps (e.g. marmite, pickled onion)….

  • di
    June 15, 2011 11:22am

    Looks like normal fare. :) Although I was surprised with Americans having pre-made dough in a can. I think it was called Crescents? Imagine that! Since we rarely have stuff like that in Australia.

    In regards to the pancakes, that reminds me of seeing frozen hotcakes back in Japan. Wonder what’s trashier? Frozen hotcakes or premade pancakes?

  • June 15, 2011 11:22am


    My favorite idea (can’t say flavor because I haven’t yet tried them but I look forward to them).

    Nice post, man. I look forward to you EVERY day but this was really a surprise. :)

  • June 15, 2011 11:35am

    Many of those are fairly recent. Remember that many French households are far from freshly baked bread and croissants outside Paris! Still, it’s interesting and fun to see things through your eyes!

  • June 15, 2011 11:38am

    Great post!

    What’s really ironic is that the biggest buyers of the pre-packaged vanilla crêpes (as well as the chocolate and the cassonade ones) are the Bretons! (A friend of mine used to work at the place that made them).

  • My grandparents would always keep pain de mie at home for those days that a fresh baguette was not available, like on all those national holidays or when the weather was bad, for example rainy or windy, and the baguettes were either too rubbery or too dry.

  • Sandra
    June 15, 2011 11:59am

    Three Cookies made a request that you do a commentary on the same 10 goofiest items on US supermarket shelves. There are probably more than can be counted, and only getting worse. It is pretty bad when French supermarkets stock comps of Americanized products. Just a one word question, “why?”. Seeing people line up daily or more at the corner boulangerie or patisserie for croissants, gateaux, etc, why they would want that tasteless prepackaged nonsense is beyond me….and the rest of your readers as well!!

  • June 15, 2011 12:09pm
    David Lebovitz

    julie & MilkJam: I guess that’s true, if you live in the countryside. But I found these in Paris just a few blocks from where I live – and there are at least four or five very good bakeries within a two block radius.

    As for the La Mamie ‘desserts’, I’ve heard on excellent authority that they’re pretty good. I’m just afraid if I try one, I might get hooked, too : )

    Ayla: Thanks for the corrections ~ it is kind of sad to see so little plain yogurt anymore. You really have to look hard to find it in supermarkets, unfortunately, which is why I pick it up at the natural food stores or at the fromager now, when I get my cheese.

    Three Cookies & Sandra: Since I don’t live in the US, it’d be hard to justify flying back just to do a post. But perhaps someone else could do it – there’s plenty of stuff in American supermarkets that’s pretty amusing (and not-so-amusing).

  • June 15, 2011 12:13pm

    Ah David, you’ve highlighted some of my own favourite finds in French supermarkets too :) I can’t wait to be back in Paris at the end of the month foraging around for fun products like this again!

  • June 15, 2011 12:23pm

    I am scared of Harry’s American bread…I bought a loaf when I first moved to Paris, and it survived on my counter for a month. So gross! And so unnecessary when lovely fresh bread is so available!

    (Also: I would happily drive 30 minutes for a fresh buttery croissant if I lived in the country. The crap in a can is just no substitute!)

  • adrian
    June 15, 2011 12:26pm

    so sad when you can practically watch a country’s (food) culture slowly disappear :-(
    But it’s interesting that there are Americans (or you in particular in this case) prepared to go the extra mile to get the real thing, when so much of the artificial comes from the states. There’s some kind of learning curve in there, where Americans have been there, done that and are slowly wising up.

    Amazing how one culture affects another in this way. First we start seriously processing our food and become number one in that department, then the rest of the world follows, and finally we point out to others what they are in danger of losing, having trodden this path ourselves.
    I think I’ve probably already lost everyone in my tangle of words…

  • June 15, 2011 12:35pm

    Roaming the aisles of the supermarché when I am in France is a favorite pastime- for this very reason. Why on earth would anyone buy croissant dough like that when the corner bakery is right there ? Ah, who knows. Merci for making me laugh this morning.

  • June 15, 2011 12:43pm
    David Lebovitz

    Adrian: Perhaps because all of this stuff is new and kind of exciting to French people, that may be why it’s become prevalent. And also the French seem to love anything novel or amusant, like peanut butter-flavored snack foods or shelf-stable crêpes or “American” bread.

    Because they usually see the worst of American – on television and in the food stores (the “American aisle” in grocery stores always has marshmallow cream, El Paso Mexican products, bottled salad dressings, etc..) – people outside the states don’t see or know about all the good stuff that going on, like the gorgeous farmer’s markets and things like bean-to-bar chocolates and heirloom bean growers.. But it’s kind of interesting to roam the aisles of supermarkets in any country and take a look at what they’re buying and eating.

  • June 15, 2011 12:44pm

    France is catching up with us, at long last. Why should we be the only ones with roast-chicken-flavoured potato chips, I ask you?

  • Lisa
    June 15, 2011 1:07pm

    Elemjay: As someone who has lived in the UK for almost 20 years, I can vouch for the Brit love of odd crisp (chip) flavours–the vinegar and the meat-flavoured ones (bacon, prawn cocktail, pickle & sausage, even hedgehog) are extremely popular: . (http://www.bbc.co.uk/dna/h2g2/A16455053)
    Oddly enough, the chicken flavour are vegetarian but the cheese & onion are not… The person next to me is now waxing lyrical about Marmite ones…**shudder**

  • For once, you’ve helped, rather than hindered my diet, David. That Salad Nicoise in a can may have ruined my appetite for the entire day…. Ew!

    Great post, lots of fun. I visit supermarkets in different regions here in the US to look for things like this. Maybe it’s a hold-over from my former life in the buisness, but I still get a kick out of it.

  • cranberry
    June 15, 2011 1:30pm

    the pre-made crepes are not that bad. I don’t know about the vanilla flavour, but we used to buy the plain ones, warm them up and spread them with Nutella or jam for “gouter” when I was a kid. They aren’t as good as home made ones, but they are convenient and make a decent gouter.

    I agree that Harry’s bread and pre-made croissants are horrible, but also think a previous comment rightly points out that your point of view is parisian – not everyone in France has tons of amazing bakeries right around the corner.

    Funny you should mention plain yogurt since I never find any in Canada, where I live now. In France, my mom makes her own yogurt, but I’ve always found plain yogurt without any trouble. Still, that was a couple years ago…

  • Catherine N
    June 15, 2011 1:30pm

    hmm. That is fascinating. Maybe the corn syrup is the result of the corn lobby in the States repackaging its product? Since sugar is making more of a comeback here in the US.

    I remember when I was in France a couple years ago and shopping for groceries. I miss the yogurt! I also found a wonderful gluten-free bread in the grocery store… (and the same company made yummy gluten-free madeleines too!)

    I loved how there was less of the processed crap, and there was what I called the “wall of butter”!

    Have I mentioned that I miss the yogurt?

  • June 15, 2011 1:35pm

    I also noticed a very, very wide variety of precooked grilled cheese, either the basic cheddar-sliced bread version or several fancier ones. There are over 30 different kinds at my local grocery store.

  • June 15, 2011 2:02pm

    We have lived in rural France since 2004 and I think it is scary what is now seen and bought in the supermarkets. I help out with the swimming lessons at the local primary school and was shocked by how many overweight children are in one of the classes. After swimming they are allowed a gouter (snack) and the majority seem to emerge with a lunch box full of processed, salt and sugar ladened rubbish (I’ve never seen a banana being eaten). The future of these kids is not going to be good.

  • Susan
    June 15, 2011 2:03pm

    I agree – the pop-up croissants don’t compare to a real one from a baker. But they great fun to stuff with your own ideas – ham and cheese being a classic favourite – they do need a little something extra.

  • June 15, 2011 2:03pm

    We have something similar to Harry’s here in Italy, and we’ll usually have a loaf in the house (not for me but my OH). One time the loaf was good for more than a month without any visible mold, which is very disturbing, but I imagine good to have a backup-bread-plan in place. Yuck.

  • June 15, 2011 2:11pm

    Re # 6 I don’t know about pancakes, but one of my favourite things to eat are cold crepes – I roll (not fold) them stuffed with jam – either apricot or sour cherries – and I always make sure there are a couple left for the next morning, when they are soaked in the middle and crispy at the ends. And if I have a glass of milk to go with them…

  • June 15, 2011 2:18pm

    You’re a brave soul David for trying out these *ahem* wonderful treats for us. Yeah, my in-laws once served up some meat or chicken flavoured chips during apero once. I didn’t eat any because it just seemed too strange. And that salade nicoise…? I think the person who came up with that did it to win a bet or contest.

  • June 15, 2011 2:20pm

    French supermarkets put me in a trance state .
    I do admit to liking the cartons of Gazpacho from Spain…
    For the most flavored chips on the planet you have to go to the Eurostar departure lounge in London – I fainted with wonder.

  • June 15, 2011 2:30pm

    I am an Indian who was raised in Saudi Arabia. You find this kind of stuff in supermarkets all over Saudi Arabia, Croissants in a can, Cold Frozen Pancakes, Canned Salads, Cold Crepes…Flavored yogurt too, but thankfully the regular yogurt is more common. And most of this stuff is consumed by the French and American community in Saudi, the Saudis aren’t big fans of Frozen Pancakes or Corn Syrup :P

    I have never actually tried any of that stuff! I am an Indian and in India, we are big fans of fresh food. We whiff up our pancakes and crepes and breads at home in a jiffy, or get it fresh from the bakery…and canned salads are a strict no no! Why get canned veggies when you get fresh veggies in the market everyday! :) And I don’t think we ever use corn syrup :p

    I found your article really Amazing and Amusing! :)

  • June 15, 2011 2:31pm

    Back when I lived in Dubin, I used to eat Chicken & Thyme crisps by an English company called Walkers. I’ll admit it, I liked them, especially on days after big pub sessions.
    And I’m very intrigued by the mystère chips… the possibilities are endless!

  • June 15, 2011 2:44pm

    I’ve just recently moved to France (Chambéry) from San Francisco and I saw the “American sandwich bread” at Monoprix and laughed out loud. They also have macarons in the freezer section at Monoprix, which baffles me as I can get much better ones at many bakeries here.

    I guess it’s akin to those atrocious hamburgers in a can and hard boiled eggs in a bag you see in the US.

  • June 15, 2011 2:49pm

    No matter where we travel to, a few trips to local supermarkets are a must.
    No better way to look inside a country’s food culture than that.

  • June 15, 2011 2:50pm

    Hilarious post, David!

  • June 15, 2011 2:54pm

    I love supermarket tourism! It’s one of my favorite things to do when I travel and I pick up a lot of goofy gifts that way, usually candy and odd canned stuff with cool labels. Packaged crescent rolls, aka “whack-a-tubes”, have a special place in my heart. When my sister was about three she would make a beeline for them in the supermarket if you weren’t watching her. With great squeals of delight, she’d throw one after the other on the floor to watch them pop. Funny now but horrifying at the time.

  • SML
    June 15, 2011 3:03pm

    They had better watch it; or, before you know it, they will be as fat as Americans.

  • June 15, 2011 3:08pm
    David Lebovitz

    Susan: I don’t know about those croissants. I let them cool for a while and after a while, they just got softer and softer. I thought about maybe using them in a stuffing, since I hate throwing things away, but the taste was really awful.

    Kathryn: They have those hard cooked eggs (with mayonnaise) in the auto-stops on the highways here. And a local bakery near me, in addition to all the wonderful sandwiches like jambon-beurre now have ‘cheeseburgers’, which are pre-made and sit on the same shelf with the baguette sandwiches (!)

    parisbreakfasts: I’ve not tried the Spanish gazpacho but the frozen stuff is pas terrible, but I’ve always had to add a whole bunch of stuff to it to give it some zing.

  • Mikki
    June 15, 2011 3:13pm

    I agree with most of the above David and it was a very interesting article. Though I must admit to having bought harry’s bread before. Only the ‘complet’ as it’s not so sweet when craving a ‘toastie’ like at home in england. If I could find decent wholemeal or seeded loaves of bread here then I’d definitely buy that instead. My big question to bakeries here in France though (in my experience in Normandy at least) is ‘why is your ‘pain de mie’ so small?! Seriously, the slices are about the size of a cracker. How am I supposed to make a sandwich or toastie with that?
    The croissants in the tin and the mixes are definitely very scary. It always shocks me how many mixes are available in French supermarkets. Definitely more than in England!

  • June 15, 2011 3:29pm

    Mamie Nova yogurts are terribly addictive….
    About those croissant cans, actually you can get something similar in North America. Pillsbury makes something extremely similar, with the scarily loud popping cans too! Although they don’t taste like real French croissant au beurres, they have this distinctive yeasty, preservativey taste that I grew up with and quite enjoy…I guess it’s like craving McDo once in a while.

  • Lynn
    June 15, 2011 3:33pm

    As an American, the corn syrup is something I’ve been used to seeing my whole life, especially at Thanksgiving when it was a primary ingredient in pecan pie! (way before the high-fructose version, I’d think)

  • June 15, 2011 3:48pm

    What a fun post! I really enjoyed all the strange foods :)

  • Gretchen
    June 15, 2011 3:49pm

    The canned Nicois salad looks like cat food! Ugh!

    Thanks for adding some laughter (and disgust) to my morning cup of coffee.

  • June 15, 2011 3:49pm

    Wonderful post, brings back memories! I once tried the croissants years ago, in the UK. I was so disgusted with the taste, I never even served them. I bought a tin of the salad by mistake, picking it up instead of tinned tuna and that was revolting too.
    Part of the fun of going on holidays is finding different things on the supermarket shelves but sometimes we shudder and walk away fast. Some things don’t even get as far as the shelves, the spanish hunt by the roadside after rain showers to pick up the snails……

    When you go to Spain, try the Orujo and Queimada – just to say you’ve done it.
    Apparently, Orujo is nice mixed with honey and served from the freezer in shot glasses. Not for the faint hearted!

  • June 15, 2011 3:50pm

    Hilarious (as often, as I have to say)! Some of these poducts are just plain nasty, but I must admit I DO buy Harry’s pain de mie and Mamie Nova yogurts. As many other fellow Parisians, I do not have the time to buy a fresh baguette every morning. I do it on week-ends, but I like to be able to grab a piece of pain de mie and make a quick snack if I am hungry at midnight (that’s bad, I know, but gosh.. nous ne sommes que des humains!! ). Plus, a baguette is now more than 1 euro a piece, while a pain de mie is 2 euros and lasts.. hum.. more than a week. Not a good thing, I know, but unfortunately more and more people are on a tight budget these days and that’s a paradise for some junk unhealthy food.

  • June 15, 2011 3:56pm

    Love this! We also have the vanilla crepes in some whole foods in the states… also, while living in New Zealand I once found instant coffee and condensed milk in a tube (like the swirly toothpaste in the states)! Just squeeze a bit into hot water, stir and there you have sweet milky cof- It made my day;)

  • June 15, 2011 4:01pm

    I love that the croissants made you jump. You truly are a pastry chef!

    The chicken-flavored chips look tasty compared to the shrimp-flavored Pringles I had in Russia.

    In France, I was shocked to see the frozen dinner selections. It reminded me of the US Weekly portion that showcases how celebrities are “Just Like Us.” Here’s Matt Damon pushing a shopping cart. He’s just like us. I guess the French are just like us with their terrible frozen food selections too.

    Fun post!

  • Sarahb1313
    June 15, 2011 4:13pm

    There is no shortcut to good croissants and even here in the Big Apple area a reasonable facsimile is hard to find. Although when up in Montreal or Quebec I didn’t do too badly.

    Just yesterday when I was at Trader Joe’s stocking up on my favorite almond flour (for you know what!) I noticed Macaron’s in the freezer!! I did not indulge though, as I am spoiled with the fresh home made ones… even out my freezer. I have yet to eat an excellent Macaron here. My son brought me some from Macaron Cafe in NYC… “ok”. Tried some from a shop in the swank Short Hills NJ mall… “ok”.

    So I just set about this morning processing batches of pre-measured tant-pour-tant that I vac sealed so it is ready to use when I am…. with a small batch for later today!

    I still wonder that those croissants are better than pilsbury cressent rolls???? I mean, it’s FRENCH!!

    Thanks David

  • June 15, 2011 4:14pm

    Brilliant post… but you non-brits really need to embrace crisps, or potato chips, or whatever you like to call them. Roast Chicken flavour is nothing.

    I would class that as a standard flavour (the others being cheese and onion, prawn cocktail, salt and vinegar, smokey bacon and ready salted – though there are now several varieties of salt to choose from too). The chilli/bbq/paprika spectrum is also popular.

    Corner shops have something called a ‘wall of crisps’ where the boxes are piled on top of each other, open at the front end; no self-respecting wall of crisps would have fewer than 15 varieties of potato or corn-based snack. [For more on the cult of the wall of crisps I refer you to genius BBC Radio 4 comedy Fags Mags and Bags http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b00fbnb7%5D

    There are snacks shaped like monsters feet, fake rashers of bacon, squares, shells…

    There are also ‘seasonal’ flavours. Yesterday I bought English Summer Barbeque flavour (didn’t taste nice, but the bag was a pretty colour, and it counts as seasonal produce). At Christmas there is Port and Stilton flavour. For Comic Relief and World Cup recently Walkers (a major brand here) : English Breakfast, chilli con carne, haggis, american cheeseburger, french garlic baguette, Australian kangaroo…

    I’m a big fan of a simply salted Lays, but I can’t believe so few other countries have embraced the joys of the crisp…

  • June 15, 2011 4:22pm

    JCT- that is hilarious, I have also seen walls of flavored milk in NZ, lime milk, strawberry milk, vanilla milk…ick… I have to say though I am intrigued by a wall of crisps!

  • Erica
    June 15, 2011 4:23pm

    I found this post quite amusing, because I saw many parallels to my life here in Montreal (I am originally from the states). They have Ketchup chips here, and another flavor called “All Dressed” (which tastes like they took every flavor powder they own and threw it in the bag. I have to admit, though, I have been known to stuff a bag into my shopping basket on occasion). I cannot believe the amount of weird processed food available here, especially with all of these fabulous farmer’s markets and bakeries on every corner. C’est bizarre. But, at least all of the ketchup, soda and other processed stuff is made with sugar and not the DREADED corn syrup (:

  • sillygirl
    June 15, 2011 4:27pm

    The flavored chips reminded me of a trip to Greece last year – they serve lots of “french” fries – no catsup. One of our tour members was so disappointed. It happened that on her birthday someone found catsup-flavored potato chips – she was overjoyed and we were all amazed that such a thing existed!

  • Jennifer
    June 15, 2011 4:42pm

    You should try making your own yogurt. I got a $20 yogurt maker off Amazon and it makes the best tasting yogurt.

    We have corn syrup on the shelves in the US, too. Karo syrup is corn syrup, but it’s not high fructose corn syrup, so apparently it’s different.

  • Paige
    June 15, 2011 4:42pm

    This post is hilarious, and I can so relate to it. I have been living near Geneva, CH for about 3.5 yrs now but I often do my shopping in France. We tried so many of the above mentioned foods when we first arrived here, but thankfully we have grown accustomed to the non-American way of eating and now steer clear of these items. Okay, there is one exception to that…the rest of my family still wants to eat that pre-packaged sliced bread! Help me!!!

    I have recently discovered your blog and am really enjoying it as a regular read.


  • Ash
    June 15, 2011 4:44pm

    They sell a similar product to the Harry’s bread here in Holland which is fabulous for making toasted sandwiches. The usual Dutch bread can fall apart and so this is what you have to buy if you want a good ‘tosti’.

    I admit to buying the Harry’s stuff when we were in France the last two summers. Our nearest boulangerie was 30 mins away in the car and unless we were clever about it it was impossible to have anything resembling bread around in an emergency. It’s ok for toast, I wouldn’t eat it fresh! My son said ‘That’s like that white stuff they gave us in the US, only a bit better!’ – he had refused to eat Wonder bread when visiting his aunt in NC, and caused a kerfuffle by requesting wholewheat bread. He was 9 at the time.

  • June 15, 2011 4:46pm

    Hilarious. But how on earth did you narrow it down to just ten?

  • June 15, 2011 4:46pm

    Concerning American Bread, it should be called English Bread (it’s based on the Chorleywood system: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-13670278), but then the French wouldn’t buy any food product that had ‘English’ in the title.

    I eat it sometimes because it toasts well (old habits die hard) but the real answer as to why it is so popular is…kids! A crusty baguette may be delicious to us, but it’s not always easy for small mouths.

  • Kristen S.
    June 15, 2011 4:51pm

    I once bought a chocolate cake in a can in Nice. I thought “it’s chocolate, it’s French, how bad can it be?” It was bad.

  • June 15, 2011 4:59pm

    This morning, I fed my cat something that looked exactly like that Salade Nicoise.

  • Pierre Ernoult
    June 15, 2011 5:03pm

    I’ve seen Harry’s whatever bread ads on TV, but I never saw any of their products at any of my friends’ place! So if 2/3 of the French have them, that means that once again I belong to a minority! Pfff! Heavy to arry!

  • June 15, 2011 5:03pm

    I like the “intentionally left blank” comment for the pre-made crepes. My parents buy pre-made frozen crepes all the time, and then serve them heated in the oven with russian caviar (i.e red fish roe). Sounds gross, but honestly, a very comforting and delicious

  • June 15, 2011 5:05pm

    No. 1 big seller in the states, when I lived there I was amazed at what the made out of it. Not only croissants, but toppings for stewed fruits, stuffed desserts and lots more. Was shocked the first time I opened one and the can “exploded”

  • Caitlin
    June 15, 2011 5:06pm

    Hilarious, and thanks for reminding me how much I miss Curlys.

  • June 15, 2011 5:09pm
    David Lebovitz

    liz: Can see frozen crêpes but ones that you can keep on the shelf for weeks (or months) are a different animal altogether. But there is powdered crêpe mix in the supermarkets as well – you just add liquid and squeeze them out into pans.

    Pierre: Yes, interesting that Harry’s products are found in 2/3rds of French households. I’m happy to support my local bakery, too.

    Jennifer: The plain yogurt here is pretty outstanding – yes, a lot of Americans confused corn syrup with high-fructose corn syrup, which is pretty different. But having remembered the 80s (or was it another era?) when sugar was the worst thing you could eat, it’s funny to see it being promoted nowadays.

  • June 15, 2011 5:17pm

    I’ve always kept Karo corn syrup in my cupboard. It’s called for in some candy recipes and I think in seven-minute frosting. I don’t know why corn syrup would be considered evil.

    High fructose corn sweetener is the fashionable boogeyman for many people today, but all you have to do is NOT EAT PROCESSED CRAP and you’ll be fine.

  • June 15, 2011 5:18pm

    I love my “Harry’s 7 céréales”, I must admit. :D
    I don’t take time to by fresh bread everyday, I prefer to have this delicious industrial “pain de mie” that I can keep for “decades” in my fridge. I buy one baguette per week when I have a good cheese to eat, or for saturday morning breakfasts or friends for dinner. (Luckily we’re not all acting like me, or bakeries would close in Paris!)

    (A French testimony.)

  • June 15, 2011 5:57pm

    I remember Harry’s bread from when I use to live in Poitiers! We have something similar here in Poland. “USA Tost”. I’ll admit that I buy it because it’s cheap, always comes in a jumbo size (natch), and is great for peanut butter & jelly sandwiches and, uh, toast. We don’t get sacks of pancakes but rather waffles. They have the texture of cotton candy. *shudder* By the way, I made your Brown Sugar Banana ice cream with some of the Mexican sugar cones I brought back with me on my last visit home. Fantastic! I just bought an ice cream maker, and your Salted Butter Caramel is next on my list!

  • June 15, 2011 5:58pm

    Hi, Thanks for the interesting post. I’ve been coming to france for many years, staying at different lengths. I’ve noticed over the years that the french are getting fatter. I believe it’s because of all the processed food and the fast food restaurants. Why anyone would buy any bread in a marche as opposed to the boulangerie is beyond me. Trying to copy americans is not the way to go. Thanks. Milt

  • June 15, 2011 6:06pm

    I can’t say that I’ve seen an increase in obesity in France. But I sure notice a ton of obesity in airports getting to France!
    Funny post – I LOVE shopping in French grocery stores – food for thought, one strange food that doesn’t exist in France is microwave popcorn. Well, you can find it at Le Grand Épicerie but it’s in the foreign section so that doesn’t really count.
    Nice anthro work, David.

  • June 15, 2011 6:07pm

    And what about le lait Tetra Pak? La France and its grand idea of “les produits latier, des sensations pures” and having the freshest of the fresh at all times in supermarkets.

    Yes, we-they all buy their Tetra Pak milk by the dozen – those weird milk rectangular bricks that sit on the supermarket and at home shelves for weeks/months. No need to be refrigerated.

    Isn’t that goofy? That’s real fresh milk. Yet no one ever mentions it. Merci Elle & Vire! :(

    David from Frenchie and the Yankee

  • MelissaMG
    June 15, 2011 6:09pm


    Trader Joe’s has some amazing things but the frozen macarons–meh…not great. The frozen chocolate croissants are quite good at Trader Joe’s though and no exploding can! You set them out overnight to thaw and rise and bake in the morning–not as good as one fresh from the bakery but we enjoy them. They are also carrying wasabi almonds-Yum!

  • June 15, 2011 6:15pm

    as usual… you made me laugh… and in this post… gag… i would never touch
    any of these… i would walk in my bathrobe anywhere to get the real deal…
    that nicoise in a can… seriously… sick.

  • missfoodie
    June 15, 2011 6:26pm

    Good post. Having been raised in North America, I do have nostalgia and wonderful childhood memories of american “junk food’ and Pillsbury (betty crocker, aunt jemima syrup, etc) is one of them…but somehow they tasted better as a child and certainly tasted better there…The French should stick with what they do best – why do Fruits&Wine and des Curly when you can do a pastaga and some nicois olives?

  • goodeaten
    June 15, 2011 6:39pm

    Hey David, Don’t quite understand your comments regarding the sirop de maïs which for me is the same corn syrup you use in your chocolate sauce.

  • Sneha
    June 15, 2011 6:42pm

    David! You must stop by India sometime, specifically the supermarkets. You’ll find aisles and aisles of non-flavored yogurt, manufactured by local and multinational companies such as Nestlé. Yogurt is so easy to make, hence its usually home-made in most Indian households.
    On the other products you’ve featured here – I’d like to give the Fruits & wine a try though!

  • June 15, 2011 6:52pm

    The poulet chips reminded me of a childhood fave- Chicken In a Biskit- I think I was too busy licking all the msg off my fingers to study the nutritional content of the snack.

    The mystery chips are hilarious. They do that here with Dum Dum Pops.

  • June 15, 2011 7:05pm

    The Salade Nicoise looks exactly like a can of cat food. As for the yogurt, the rage here in the States is Greek yogurt…I like mine plain.

  • Erika
    June 15, 2011 7:20pm

    “As far as the croissants go, living out in the country with a 5 minute drive to the nearest bakery (10 minutes if you want a good one!) I can see the appeal of the frozen and packaged croissants (have you ever tried the frozen ones from Picard?? YUM!)”

    This made me laugh. I live ‘out in the country’ in Texas. It takes me at least 5 minutes to get to the end of my driveway. I could probably get a good, fresh croissant within a 1 hour drive. Therefore, I don’t remember the last time that I ate a croissant. We do have similar canned ones or frozen at our grocery. But I would rather learn to make them from scratch, one day. . .

  • June 15, 2011 7:40pm

    My 7 yr old recently tried a packaged “brioche” from monoprix that was a weird hybrid of brioche & wonder bread. Not my thing but he loved it & keeps asking where to get it in the US

    I often make my own bread but have not yet mastered this one. I’ve tried tweaking some reliable brioche recipes but can’t quite get the odd consistency/flavor that he wants.

  • michele
    June 15, 2011 7:43pm

    Just returned by Paris and Provence, and while there fell in love with the little Fermiere yogurts (plain) because of the taste but also the little lavender-colored ceramic pots they came in! Even brought the pots home! BTW, your recs for Les Papilles and Cuisine de Bar were great…at the latter there was an entire table of David-Lebovitz-blog
    followers! They should give you a percentage of their business. Or at least free Poilane loaves!

  • June 15, 2011 7:53pm

    If and when you cross the Channel to do a book-signing here (soon, I hope!), do have a look in our supermarkets – you’ll find all these things and more! Actually, and sadly (I agree with your “certain someone”), not chocolate yoghurt, although they used to do it. I think coffee-flavoured yoghurt is my favourite. And not the macaron mix (I once bought the sorbet mix, about 40 years ago. Once!) Also chocolate-filled pancakes.

    The cold pancakes are what are called drop-scones here, and the commercial variety are too sweet and, as you say, rather damp-flannel when cold. You hot them up and then melt butter all over them, but much better make your own (a similar batter to ordinary crepes, but you halve the amount of milk).

    And I am cross because, having gone to considerable trouble to buy a bag of “farine de sarassin” to bring home with me last week, this week our supermarkets have rye flour! They didn’t, before I went away – I looked! Grrrrr.

  • June 15, 2011 7:55pm

    P.S. We visited the Listel vineyards and saw the fruits/wine – yuckers! We came away with some very nice gris de gris, which is delicious and which I think I’m going to have a glass of right now!

  • Pennyloper
    June 15, 2011 8:14pm

    Yeah, that canned Salad Nicoise definitely looks like cat food. You would only have to change the caption to “Fancy Feast” and it would work.

  • June 15, 2011 8:21pm

    Ah! I spy the mark of les anglais – particularly with respect to roast chicken crisps and cold pancakes (Scotch pancakes — they’re actually not bad toasted with butter and jam). Curiosities in England, they do seem a bit out of place in France. You must try the Mystere flavor and report back, though.

    When I was last in Paris (in 2008) I remember seeing little custard cups in the yogurt aisle and loving them as extra calories for my skinny minnie toddler. I can imagine that the version chocolat would be difficult to resist.

    Corn syrup? I got nothing except that it is useful in certain candy making.

  • June 15, 2011 8:22pm

    The marketer who decided that you take a crescent roll call it a croissant and sell it in France is a genius.

  • June 15, 2011 8:33pm

    Quel horreur, is all I can say, except thank you for the laugh.

  • June 15, 2011 8:36pm

    When I lived in Sicily, there was this supermarket that had horse meat in their meat cases….an entire section of it. It was one of the very few things I couldn’t adjust to. I pretty much tried everything else….

  • Aila
    June 15, 2011 8:53pm

    It is kind of sad to see that your own country is happily walking towards its downfall when if comes to food. A country that is/was so revered for their gastronomy is now embracing the “American” diet. Fast is so much better?! Really? I am saddened by this, but like someone said higher up, thanks for the laugh. I will keep on buying my plain Saint Benoit Yogurt and attempt more often then not to make my own breads, and keep struggling with my 5 year old for her to east the healthy stuff and not canned and pre-made foods. It takes a bit of time and preparation but the flavors are so much better and it is healthier in the long run.
    Why do we think that all this is okay to eat? Our society is diseased because of all the extra flavorings and the all ready made, and all the sugar… I don’t get it. No one has understood that there is a connection between and getting sick? I guess not.
    Thank you for sharing though.

  • Thomas
    June 15, 2011 8:54pm

    I tried a few of the things you mentioned on here.
    Living in belgium making frequent trips to france, most of them aren’t as weird to me. To be brief however; i think you have a very good point with your croissants ;)

    awesome blog/website by the way, you’ve become my absolute reference for desserts :)

  • June 15, 2011 9:02pm

    I love supermarket tourism. The 17 kinds of Spam in Singapore, the million-flavoured crisps in England…mmm. I started to understand that France is also vulnerable to packaged foods when I accidentally turned down the cereal aisle in our Monoprix, and discovered chocolate-laden marvels of extrusion technology as horrific as you would find in the US. Tresor gout choco-caramel! Chocapic Pepites! Wow.

  • June 15, 2011 9:13pm

    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 ;-)

  • Denise from Durango
    June 15, 2011 9:28pm

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

  • kim
    June 15, 2011 9:46pm

    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!

  • Maja
    June 15, 2011 9:47pm

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

  • June 15, 2011 9:59pm

    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.

  • slacher
    June 15, 2011 10:00pm

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

  • Gia Marie
    June 15, 2011 10:03pm

    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!

  • Jean Marie
    June 15, 2011 10:14pm

    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.

  • OtterAbroad
    June 15, 2011 10:46pm

    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!

  • Lien
    June 15, 2011 10:57pm

    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! :-) / :-(

  • Lien
    June 15, 2011 11:01pm

    The salad Nicoise kills my appetite!

  • June 15, 2011 11:04pm
    David Lebovitz

    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).

  • Rebecca
    June 15, 2011 11:27pm

    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.

  • thuy
    June 15, 2011 11:48pm

    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.

  • Andrea
    June 15, 2011 11:50pm

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

  • June 16, 2011 12:12am

    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.

  • Peggy
    June 16, 2011 12:12am

    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.

  • June 16, 2011 12:20am

    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.

  • June 16, 2011 12:26am

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

  • missjane
    June 16, 2011 12:46am

    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

  • naomi
    June 16, 2011 1:09am

    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.

  • Katie
    June 16, 2011 2:17am

    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”.

  • June 16, 2011 2:39am

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

  • June 16, 2011 2:53am

    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!”

  • Elizabeth
    June 16, 2011 3:57am

    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!

  • david
    June 16, 2011 5:58am

    Et la mayonnaise en tube….Entre autre….

  • Oliverde
    June 16, 2011 6:43am

    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.

  • June 16, 2011 7:31am

    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!

  • June 16, 2011 8:58am

    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.

  • June 16, 2011 9:45am


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

  • Johanna
    June 16, 2011 9:58am

    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)

  • June 16, 2011 10:57am

    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.

  • Angeliki
    June 16, 2011 12:52pm

    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!

  • June 16, 2011 1:15pm

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

  • Carly
    June 16, 2011 3:45pm

    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???

  • Sini
    June 16, 2011 4:06pm

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

  • June 16, 2011 4:22pm

    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!

  • June 16, 2011 4:31pm

    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.

  • June 16, 2011 4:36pm

    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…

  • Gina
    June 16, 2011 5:04pm

    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. ;)

  • Gina
    June 16, 2011 5:05pm

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

  • June 16, 2011 6:04pm

    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!

  • June 16, 2011 7:14pm

    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.

  • Carolyn Z
    June 16, 2011 8:09pm

    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.

  • Julie
    June 16, 2011 9:22pm

    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…



  • CBRetriever
    June 16, 2011 9:50pm

    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

  • June 16, 2011 10:09pm
    David Lebovitz

    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.

  • Sara
    June 16, 2011 10:13pm

    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.

  • June 16, 2011 11:31pm

    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.

  • June 17, 2011 12:04am

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