A big part of my job, here in France, is the stuff that everyone has to do (unless they have paid someone else to do it)--cleaning the house, doing the laundry, and shopping for and cooking the food. I've set up a routine that I usually stick to, including making the bed and sweeping every morning, cleaning the bathroom and changing the sheets once a week, and doing laundry nearly every day (when you have no dryer, you have to keep up, because it takes a day or so to hang dry.) Monday or Tuesday is usually the day I grocery shop for the week.
The guidebooks will tell you that the French shop for their meals every day, stopping at the butcher, the baker,
the candlestick maker
the green grocer, the creamery, the cheese shop, the cave (wine shop) and the like. But, France today is a little different--sure, those shops all exist, and I shop all of them, but to take time each morning to do that? Well, I like to think I have better things to do than spend 2 hours food shopping every single day. So, I buy some things at the supermarket, and others at the street market, and occasionally stop in the specialty stores as well.
Just like in the US, a trip to the supermarket takes time. I prefer to do it once or twice a week, rather than more often, and we plan accordingly. We can only buy as much as we can carry and store, so we do have to go more often than we would in the US. I plan each evening meal at the grocery store, based on what's fresh, in season, and inexpensive. This week, I grabbed my caddie (rolling grocery cart), some extra cloth bags (they have plastic, but my cloth ones are sturdier and better for the environment) and headed out. I filled the caddie with the essentials, skipping the fresh fruits and veggies, because I knew prices were better on Blvd. Auguste Blanqui. I paid, and walked back out to head to the street market for my produce.
Last time we went to the street market, Dr. B and I got some fresh bread, meat for dinner from one of the many butchers, and wanted to get some fruit, too. I had only a euro and some change in my pocket. Jeff said, "You go ahead, I'll come behind. You get better deals when I'm not around." He was right. For less than 2 euros, I got about 4 euros worth of fresh cherries.
This time, I had a few things I needed, so I started the trek down the line, which stretches several blocks. The best things are toward the middle, but the cheapest guys for fresh produce are right at the beginning. The faces have changed, recently, but the good deals haven't. As it was around 1 PM (close to the closing time), I knew there would be deals to be had.
I walked up to a guy who hailed me with "4 melons, 1 euro!" I told him I didn't need any melons (though he offered 5 for one euro), but would like some strawberries. I asked for 500 grams. He gave me two 500+ gram bags, heaping with fresh, ripe berries. "What else?" I wanted a head of lettuce, and he chose the largest and freshest, before sending me on to his colleague, a little further down, for more veggies. The gentleman asked what I would like, and I smiled and said, "a cucumber." I got 2, 16" long burpless european cucumbers, and a "you are very beautiful!" A quick "Merci" was followed by a request for haricots verts
(green beans) for two people, me and my husband
. He filled a shopping bag to the brim, tied it in a double knot, and asked, "is that OK?" I said it was way too much for two, but he just smiled and began tallying up my purchases.
"Five euro for all of it, and a number."
"I'm afraid I don't understand."
"Your phone number. We could get a coffee, no big deal..."
I laughed, and said, I was sorry, and that I was married. I thought better of that, and added quickly, "and very happy. We've been married ten years this year."
He looked a little disappointed, but smiled anyway, and wished me "Bon Courage"
I headed home, struggling with the weight and bulk of my purchases, and climbed in the elevator, which I only take when I have groceries, since we live on the first floor (called the second floor in America). As I left the elevator, I accidentally tipped my Caddie, breaking 6 of the dozen eggs I had bought. Suddenly, the plans changed, and the 1/2 rotisserie chicken I had for dinner became Wednesday's meal--we would have omelettes for dinner.
It took me quite a bit of time, and a bit of a bellyache (the too ripe or almost too ripe fraises
went either in the poubelle
or in my or Lucy's mouth), but all the strawberries were washed, trimmed , and laid on a towel to dry. The beans filled my kitchen sink half full, I rinsed and trimmed those in preparation for several nights dinners. (I gave about a third of them to a friend, and still had a gallon-size Ziploc full after trimming.)
When he got home, Dr. B asked what I had done to get such good deals. "Nothing," I said. "I wore a t-shirt, jeans, my jean jacket, and Chucks
, and I didn't flirt at all--I just asked for green beans." French men are definitely Latin (the proverbial "latin lovers"), and are not shy about telling you when they think you are attractive.
Fine with me. I like green beans.