Totally Frenched Out

From the blogger formerly known as Samdebretagne

Monday, May 2, 2011

Last week, probably due to a month of non-stop working, I lost my voice. It was extremely frustrating, since I had to spend most of the week working with a new client and they were horribly un-understanding. I was finally able to get to a doctor on Friday though, and thankfully the meds have been helping. My voice is probably back to about 75% now.

It's been ages since I last had laryngitis, and I forgot how much of a handicap not having a voice is. It felt like such a throw-back to my early days in France, when I couldn't speak French. Or answer the phone. Buy a train ticket. Talk to the hotel receptionist. Order my meal at night. I was reduced to pointing and hand gestures. I'd forgotten how demeaning it could be.

With the early years still on my mind, C & I went grocery shopping out in the burbs this weekend. As I walked around the supermarket, I had to marvel at all the changes that have come about since I first moved to France 8 years ago. All the products that were not available then but yet are so readily available now. We picked up a small BBQ for our balcony and in the meat section, I found Johnsonville Beer Brats. There was a 2-for-1 offer on Philly cream cheese in the cheese aisle. I picked up a box of Bisquick for our Sunday morning pancakes, and some more Hershey's chocolate syrup for sundaes.

And then there's the whole frozen food phenomenon. When I first came to France back in 2001 to meet Fab's family, one of the things that surprised me the most was the lack of frozen foods. At least in Bretagne, most supermarkets had only a few stand-alone freezers back then. And now 10 years later, frozen food is everywhere. Picard's are popping up like weeds, and are the savior of the working Parisian woman (and single men everywhere).

I suppose it's sad in a way. The long-standing French cuisine and traditions are changing at a fast-moving pace. Makes one wonder what things will be like ten years from now....



Blogger Sara said...

It's funny, I just read another piece about how big box stores with "low, low prices" are becoming more popular here, another sign of change that seems sad for its culture-diluting.

My husband likes to say that so many American trends are coming here, they're just 10 years behind. I find these changes sad.

Although I have to admit, being able to find cream cheese and even bagels (at least here in Belgium) does make me happy.

Enjoying your blog! :)

May 2, 2011 at 3:02 PM  
Blogger Rebecca said...

Glad your voice is back, and sorry about the client who was unwilling to be understanding. Interesting observations on the food culture here. While mostly completely true, some of what I hear your saying is also one of the (dis)advantages of living in the région parisienne. There are a host of products that I can get in/around Paris, but have still been unsuccessful finding here in my big, beloved provincial city--cream cheese being one of them. That said, frozen food is so entranched here now that a few weeks ago a telemarketer thought I was toying with her when I explained we don't ever buy frozen food. (This is mostly because, until this weekend, we didn't have the freezer space for anything more than ice cubes. We still don't have a microwave.)

May 2, 2011 at 3:52 PM  
Blogger meredith said...

I use Picard a lot for their frozen organic vegetables. They are a huge time-saver for busy school nights.

I'm glad your voice is back :)

May 2, 2011 at 5:57 PM  
Blogger Delana said...

The day Philadelphia cream cheese came to Aix en Provence, I did a little dance in the grocery store. The demonstrator wasn't sure what to think but a cheese cake just isn't the same without it! At the same time, I too feel a little sad to watch the culture borders fade. The charm and nuances of a culture (and the frustrations) are what make it all so ...interesting.

May 2, 2011 at 6:14 PM  
Blogger Michele said...

I've known about the Johnsonville brats for years and have been happy to have them around for bbqs since we've had the garden. And I was thrilled just two weeks ago when I found boxes of Betty Crocker Bisquick* sitting on the shelves of my Auchan and I grabbed a few just in case they didn't get them back in again once stocks ran out. But I have to admit that just today I was back at Auchan and jumping for joy in the middle of the aisle when I saw, for the first time, Philadelphia cream cheese for sale. I was so happy I took a picture and planned to post it on my blog tomorrow...but looks like you beat me to it!

May 3, 2011 at 12:47 AM  
Blogger Animesh said...

On behalf of single men everywhere, I can attest to the fact that Picard is awesome, both the store and the Captain :).

Glad to hear that your voice is back.

May 3, 2011 at 11:21 AM  
Blogger Susan said...

Hi! I just moved to Paris last month, and as beginner in French, I can understand how frustrating it must have been to lose your hard won language skills when you lost your voice.

By grocery shopping, I've discovered what it means to be American. I knew I wouldn't find jalapenos here, but I was surprised to find out this week that Monoprix doesn't sell pita bread, an items I'm pretty sure you can find in any major grocery store in the US. I've always loved going to ethnic grocery stores to explore, but now I have to go for what I consider the staples. I'm checking out Picard tomorrow - I'm not a big buyer of frozen or processed foods, but since I only have the kitchen equipment/supplies I brought on the plane, I may have to indulge.

May 4, 2011 at 10:14 PM  
Blogger Megan said...

oh god, I remember how frustrating it was to communicate at first; I remember trying to find strawberries. "Fraises! Fraises! Small, round, red, fruit? Fraise!"
I had such terrible headaches from trying to listen and understand conversations in French. Oh, and all of that food stuff is not available here.

May 7, 2011 at 10:48 AM  
Blogger Jacqui said...

I am glad we arrived in France in 2004 when there was so little of the pre-made jars of sauces that were all over the shelves in the UK. It made me learn how to make them myself and even though they are now here in regional France I don't need to waste my money on them!

May 9, 2011 at 12:14 PM  

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