Shopping: a French Perspective

La Belle France

Another aspect of life that can be improve is the quality of food we eat. How many of us are able to have access of farm to table food? Until I was eight years old, I lived in Seyssins  near a normal size city, Grenoble in France. I used to go visit my grand-parents a lot that lived in a small village called Fleurieu-sur-Saône, the city was within the metropolis of Lyon. I would visit them at almost every school breaks. We would get two weeks during the fall, then again for Christmas, two weeks around February (called winter break), and then again two weeks around spring, and finally two months during the Summer. What a lot of time off! So I had many opportunities to do many activities around them such as traveling, shopping, gardening and play in the yard.  One of my experience that I am bringing back today is the shopping experience! It was with my grand-pa (papy in french), it was such a rich experience that I will never forget. It would take a whole morning but it was so exciting! I would look forward to go shopping with him.

Neuville-sur-Saône shopping street, from

We would start our shopping trip with an empty straw basket and by going first to the butcher shop to get the meat, the butcher would cut the meat right in front of us, I though it was pretty cool especially  that I loved the color of his hands and aprons stained from from cutting meat all day. Then we would go get his newspaper called “Le Figaro” at a “tabac” which means “tabacco” but it was a News stand. He would sometimes get me a kids magazine that had a little gift inside. But what I liked the most was to pet the owner’s dog, a beige Labrador that was sitting peacefully by the owner of the shop and enjoying customers visits. After that, we would walk to the next shop that was the bakery where we would buy bread, the shop had so many varieties of fresh baked breads, and my most vivid memory from it was the smell! You could smell it from the street.. Seriously! On occasions we would go to the pastry shop that was located on the same street and we would chose individualy wrapped pastries and brioche with praline inside, this kind of brioche was call “Saint Genix” and is specialty from Lyon which was in the region that my grandparents leaved in.

Saint Genix brioche, from “La cuisine de Mercotte”

Our next stop was the coffee shop where we would stand on the line and wait for our turn to be served like every other stop, but this time I wasn’t in a hurry to get out because I was fascinated with the giant coffee roasting machine, you could see the coffee grains spinning, it was so cool to see and the best part of all again was the smell!! I could never get enough of this warm crisp smell. Finally, our last stop was at the dairy shop called “le gone”. The cheese store had an unimaginable amount of cheese and dairy products, every single one looked delicious, none of them were wrapped in plastic and they looked liked they were ready to be eaten right away! It was one my favorite store because the lady that owned the shop would give away cheese samples, my favorite item there was a fresh cheese dip made of crème fraiche and goat cheese mixed with herbs and seasoning. This specialty of the city of Lyon is called “cervelle de Canu” which means in french “brain of Canu”. I know it sounds weird and not very appetizing judging by it’s name but believe me it was one of their most popular item! Very addicting!

“Cervelle de Canu”, from Angela Worldtrekker.

This kind of weekly shopping would take an entire morning, not only we would walk to every shops, but my grandpa would also encounter friends that he would talk to. That was a nice socializing experience for him! Looking back I really realize how much different this kind of lifestyle is compare to the one that I live in today. What I mean by that is that a lot these lifestyles are very busy and stressful with letting very little time to ourselves which can as a result impact our quality of life. To me quality of life is a healthy life. Health is seen through the way we eat, exercise and interact. I have leaved with very little income in the past but because I was able to manage how to use my money towards things that would only be necessity that would build my quality of life, I was then able to overcome the feeling of poverty. Thinking back made me realize how lucky I was to experience food of quality, that are man made products.

Many options 

Although I have been able to survive in the United States with some grocery stores that are valuing food quality while keeping their prices reasonable. Trader Joe’s is really one of my top favorite “quality groceries store” and I strongly recommend anyone shopping there. First of all I can find a lot of product that I would not find somewhere else at at the same rate (they got lots of french stuff!). Second they care about the environment as well, as they recycle many of their packaging materials and give you a refund if you reuse their paper bags. They also like to avoid waste and will donate food to food banks.



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