You can tell a lot about a culture based on what they put into their shopping cart. Whenever I arrive in a new place, I’m drawn immediately to the fluorescent lights, deli counters, piles of produce, the squeak of shopping cart wheels. I’ve been known to wander the aisles up and down before even making a stop at the tourism office.
Grocery shopping in Périgueux is something I really look forward to, whether it’s at the local daily market or the nearby super- or hyper-marché. One Wednesday afternoon, my friend Rosie and I traipsed on down to the commercial center in (scenic) Trélissac for a trip to the huge E. Leclerc. Objective: in-depth analysis of French culinary culture as a means to better understand intrinsic Frenchiness, a national philosophy, and Périgordine tradition. C’est parti!
But first, an aside. Why so much colored toilet paper, France?
Instant coffee: a staff-room staple. Toxic.
Buttery biscuits: a necessity at tea time.
Fruit jams: sticky, sugary and best served slathered on thick pieces of brioche.
Honey: when jammy sweetness just isn’t enough.
Cheese: a passion.
Butter: a way of life.
Yogurt: the sweet ending to a savory, rich lunch or dinner.
Digestive health yogurt: the reality.
Wine: the centerpiece of any table.
Box wine: the (not entirely) unwelcome dinner guest.
Preserved duck: your mother, your father, your past, present and future.
Foie gras: GOD.
Giant cans of vegetables: a bit excessive.
Giant tubs of Nutella: an absolute necessity.
Syrups: unnatural, unnecessary, unappetizing and abundant.
Three and a half hours later, Rosie and I left Leclerc, exhausted, me with an illogical basket full of nothing that I could put together to turn into a meal. But such is a trip to a French hyper-marché: a dizzying jaunt down a brightly-colored rabbit hole that spits you out, poorer, tousled, and somehow satisfied.