A holiday to France isn’t complete without a trip to at least a couple of supermarkets. Back in the days when you could sail to France by ferry for a tenner, courtesy of The Sun newspaper Brit’s went on day trips to Calais and Dieppe in their droves, in the same way that factory operatives in Lancashire mills flocked to Blackpool in the 1800s. They’d enjoy a nice meal at a brasserie, pores ouzing with garlic, pleasantly merry on wine and finish the day wheeling a trolley round one of the hypermarkets, maybe Carrefour or Auchen. Back then and we’re talking about the 1970s and 1980s the choice of wine in British shops was more expensive and the range more limited. Blue Nun, a white wine became a by-word for naffness by the late 1970s when it was selling 3.5 million bottles a year. It was famously the wine of choice for Alan Partridge, the fictional disc jockey. Understandably we Brit’s wanted more choice on the shelves.
But things have moved on a lot. In Britain our shelves are stacked with a good array of roast coffee, wine and cheese. Or so we think, that is until we head to France and see just what we’re missing in backward, plain old Britain. The supermarkets in France are “literally massive” according to my teenage daughter. She’s right, they are. Imagine the largest Tesco store and then double it in size and you have Auchen or Super U. For some unknown reason a trip around a foreign supermarket is exciting. Strange really given that we hate shopping at home. At home it’s a chore, but abroad it’s called fun. As we wander up each aisle we don’t know what to expect. Our taste buds are tickled with so many delights we don’t ordinarily see in Britain.
The aisle, or should I say three or four aisles, I love the most are the yogurt aisles. The French love their yogurt, but to the average Brit yogurt is plain and boring when there’s nothing else on offer for dessert. France is drowning in yogurt. I’m sure it’s piped in via taps, from the massive warehouses and factories of Danone that sit by the roadside like huge toads on the landscape. Even in the smaller stores, the yogurt selection is award worthy. There are so many brands and varieties that an inquisitive foreigner could easily spend 30 euros on yogurt alone out of sheer curiosity for the many recipes and flavours on offer. From pistachio to almond, from coffee to cola they have it all covered. Fancy a drench of yogurt? Sounds a bit kinky to me.
Yogurt isn’t the only food item that takes up about two or three aisles. In the British supermarket Iceland fries take up a whole aisle but in France Salmon fills a whole aisle or two. Salmon is very healthy. It’s an oily fish, low in fat, a great source of protein. Fries – well it’s not surprising that we see so many obese people on the streets of Britain. Blame Iceland.
However there are some items that don’t offer much choice. Sandwiches for example. You’ll find a long aisle of sandwiches but the choice is limited to ham, chicken or cheese. Most of the sandwiches are in fact ham. (Jambon).
We took a leisurely stroll down the stationery aisle. My daughter wanted to buy a writing pad for college. We couldn’t find a single pad of lined paper. It was all squared paper for accountancy. Don’t they learn to write in France or is maths the only subject they do?
Beware though you Brit’s as you trawl the hypermarkets. The pound is low against the euro at the moment and you won’t find any bargains apart from some reasonably priced wine and coffee. Gone are the days when we could fill our car boots with bargains but make sure you enjoy some of the delicacies like modules and snails while you’re there and don’t forget to visit a French market where you will find garlic and cheeses stacked two metres in height like the attached picture.
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