Thanksgiving is almost here! Well, not here, exactly, but west of here, in New York and the United States for sure. However, it's sort of going to be here for me in Paris in the form of a dinner at the home of an expat and I've agreed to bring the cranberry sauce. Those who know me will nod that this dish has just the right level of difficulty of preparation for me. And so...
I was told La Grande Epicerie of Le Bon Marche department store, which just happens to be about a 5 minute walk from lucky me, carries fresh cranberries around the holidays, so I went to see for myself.
What a shopping experience! If you've every been to Harrod's Food Halls in London, you won't be quite as impressed; it's neither as large nor full of food stations at which to perch yourself to dine on site. However, it's very much worth a stop for a number of reasons.
There are cuisines of many countries, of course being heavily focused on those of France, such as your chocolates, your cheeses, your yogurts, your anything-dairy-and-full-fatted-things-in-pots, and of course, your baked goods. (Note: it's great for finding gifts to bring home all in one place! Classy, many price ranges, and there are many pretty packages, easy to pack, sturdy and likely to pass US Customs.)
Like I said, the Epicerie has a separate aisle for each of many countries, such as Tex-Mex. Wait - what? It's not enough of a head-scratcher to first spot "Tex-Mex" as a country, but then to see it on the same aisle as Spain and Germany makes me wonder if the UN could use some help from the folks at the Epicerie, or vice versa. I mean, as a Texan, of course, I do understand that Texas is viewed by many as separate country, or perhaps even a separate planet, but I digress...
I prefer to pick up baked goodies from the little shops I pass during the course of a day, probably because for me it's such an impulse purchase, and so by the time I see this one, I usually walk right by (probably for the best, given the size of my wallet, tummy and kitchen).
And then, of course, Zabars has better smoked salmon (I don't actually know this for a fact, since I've not yet purchased any from the Epicerie, but I MUST assume it if I am to retain my New York Upper West Side residency). The big difference here appears to be the use of tiny pre-made pancakes with the smoked salmon. Where are the bagels?
Nope, not by the Philadelphia Cream Cheese!
And yet, I never really did find the "American" aisle, wondering what the heck would be there (and knowing, of course, that even the other aisles had American products that I immediately recognized by their iconic logos, such as the Philly cream cheese above, Newman's Own products, and this display below).
Although that display did make me laugh, my immediate reactions came fast and numerous - "Are you kidding? This is the best we Americans can import to France - Oreos, Jones soda and American marshmallows in a bag, when France has unbelievable pastries and cakes, Badoit and hand-made marshmallows sold in patisseries?" Quickly followed by - "As an American, these aren't even the things I want to make me feel at home. Where's the Skippy? The Quaker Oat Squares? The Mallomars?" Oh well, maybe if I squish the Oreo with the Marshmallow...
Back to the point of my journey to the Epicerie, ah, yes, here are the cranberries!
6.95 euros a bag! (that's about $9.47 today) OK, so the easy lesson learned - when in France, buy French. But a little nostalgia far from home is a very sweet thing, and worth every centime, every now and then.