Grocery Store Hate

After nearly a year of living here, I have quickly learned that France is a place of many contradictions. It’s a land where stunning beauty nearly knocks your socks off at every corner, but also where dog poo threatens at every turn. Where one can fathomably subsist on cheese, pastries and wine and still not gain a pound. Where people will not hesitate for one second to mount a fierce strike or protest against even the smallest infringement, but only if it doesn’t interfere with les vacances.

But I’ve found these contradictions in national character to be no more prominent than in the grocery store aisles. Where else in the world can you find more than 200 kinds of cheese and 20 varieties of cream, but not one single can of beans? No beans, people! Not dried, not canned, not anywhere to be found. Only lentils. Man do these people love their lentils. But any other bean? N’existe pas.

Now, I can fully understand when I go in search of Worcestershire sauce or instant oatmeal or canned pumpkin and come up empty handed. Those are weird American things. But beans? Aren’t they an international magical fruit? It’s ludicrous. And it just further confirms my love/hate relationship with the supermarché.

You see, I try to shop at the open air markets as much as possible. They’re wonderful. Spectacular. A regular cornucopia of fresh goods. But it also means you have to speak French to lots of different people, explaining what you want, when you want to eat it, how you were thinking of cooking it. And you have to plan really well, because the markets are only open certain days, for certain hours.

No matter how lovely they are, sometimes the open air markets just aren’t practical. Sometimes you yearn for the old isolating American shopping experience, where you don’t have to interact with anyone and you can go at whatever time you want. Other times you just really need toilet paper and Diet Coke.

So off you trek to a modern grocery store, all of which I’ve encountered give off a very communist Russia vibe. They smell bad. They’re not particularly well stocked. The isles are cramped and full of old ladies who won’t hesitate to run over your toes to get the last jug of milk. They haven’t yet caught on to the idea that if you make the food look nicer, people will want to buy more of it. And in mine, if you want to buy toilet paper, you have to go up three floors from the food level, where it’s stashed in between children’s toys and office supplies.

Many an afternoon I stumble across the most perfect sounding recipe ever, only to find out that my local MonoPrix is out of flour and cannellini beans are considered an exotic legume. Plenty of leeks, though. God forbid they run out of leeks. It’s the only thing that you’re gauranteed to find a bounty of, other than butter.

It may sound charming from where you’re sitting, but from my kitchen table it’s super frustrating, and further supports my theory that the French government is secretly giving everyone crappy ovens and supporting smelly grocery stores to bolster the local restaurant industry. Which, now that I think of it, is pretty brilliant. And totally fine by me.

JENNIFER WILLSON is an American in Paris.




More articles by:
March 22, 2018
Conn Hallinan
Italy, Germany and the EU’s Future
David Rosen
The Further Adventures of the President and the Porn Star
Gary Leupp
Trump, the Crown Prince and the Whole Ugly Big Picture
The Hudson Report
Modern-Day Debtors’ Prisons and Debt in Antiquity
Steve Martinot
The Properties of Property
Binoy Kampmark
Facebook, Cambridge Analytica and Surveillance Capitalism
Jeff Berg
Russian to Judgment
Gregory Barrett
POSSESSED! Europe’s American Demon Must Be Exorcised
Robby Sherwin
What Do We Do About Facebook?
Sam Husseini
Trump Spokesperson Commemorates Invading Iraq by Claiming U.S. Doesn’t Dictate to Other Countries; State Dept. Defends Invasion
Rob Okun
Students: Time is Ripe to Add Gender to Gun Debate
Michael Barker
Tory Profiteering in Russia and Putin’s Debt of Gratitude
March 21, 2018
Paul Street
Time is Running Out: Who Will Protect Our Wrecked Democracy from the American Oligarchy?
Mel Goodman
The Great Myth of the So-Called “Adults in the Room”
Chris Floyd
Stumbling Blocks: Tim Kaine and the Bipartisan Abettors of Atrocity
Eric Draitser
The Political Repression of the Radical Left in Crimea
Patrick Cockburn
Erdogan Threatens Wider War Against the Kurds
John Steppling
It is Us
Thomas Knapp
Death Penalty for Drug Dealers? Be Careful What You Wish for, President Trump
Manuel García, Jr.
Why I Am a Leftist (Vietnam War)
Isaac Christiansen
A Left Critique of Russiagate
Howard Gregory
The Unemployment Rate is an Inadequate Reporter of U.S. Economic Health
Ramzy Baroud
Who Wants to Kill Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah?
Roy Morrison
Trouble Ahead: The Trump Administration at Home and Abroad
Roger Hayden
Too Many Dead Grizzlies
George Wuerthner
The Lessons of the Battle to Save the Ancient Forests of French Pete
Binoy Kampmark
Fictional Free Trade and Permanent Protectionism: Donald Trump’s Economic Orthodoxy
Rivera Sun
Think Outside the Protest Box
March 20, 2018
Jonathan Cook
US Smooths Israel’s Path to Annexing West Bank
Jeffrey St. Clair
How They Sold the Iraq War
Chris Busby
Cancer, George Monbiot and Nuclear Weapons Test Fallout
Nick Alexandrov
Washington’s Invasion of Iraq at Fifteen
David Mattson
Wyoming Plans to Slaughter Grizzly Bears
Paul Edwards
My Lai and the Bad Apples Scam
Julian Vigo
The Privatization of Water and the Impoverishment of the Global South
Mir Alikhan
Trump and Pompeo on Three Issues: Paris, Iran and North Korea
Seiji Yamada
Preparing For Nuclear War is Useless
Gary Leupp
Brennan, Venality and Turpitude
Martha Rosenberg
Why There’s a Boycott of Ben & Jerry’s on World Water Day, March 22
John Pilger
Skripal Case: a Carefully-Constructed Drama?
March 19, 2018
Henry Heller
The Moment of Trump
John Davis
Pristine Buildings, Tarnished Architect
Uri Avnery
The Fake Enemy
Patrick Cockburn
The Fall of Afrin and the Next Phase of the Syrian War
Nick Pemberton
The Democrats Can’t Save Us