Before putting the form in the mail that will allow to stay legally in France, before opening a bank account, before calling the school that has a my paperwork, what did I do?
I went shopping for food and ended up buying wine.
In my defense, the wine was a gift for my host teacher, who invited me to dinner at her house. And I did need food otherwise I wasn’t going to have much to eat today unless I wanted to go buy kebab. Which I really shouldn’t do, being that eating out is kind of expensive, even at the little kebab stands. And I should use my money for important things, like wine.
Anyway, my shopping trip was to Auchan, a hypermarché on the outskirts of Toulouse. A hypermarché is a store that’s bigger than a supermarché, or supermarket, and which generally carries a whole range of stuff beyond simply food—pharmacy, clothes, electronics, etc. It’s fairly convenient because the metro goes right to it, the prices are very reasonable and there’s an SNCF store near it in case I need to pick up train tickets.
I got my loyalty card and went to it. A great deal of food shopping in France, unless you’re going to the market, is very similar to food shopping in the U.S. The main difference is what products there are and which of them are emphasized. Cheese, for instance, gets its own aisle. One side is more “commercial” cheese, ranging from stuff you put on sandwiches to higher quality (think the difference between Kraft and Cracker Barrel) and the other is deli-style, where you get the best cheeses, either prepackaged or cut to order. You find a lot more duck in the meat section as well as a range of Spanish and North African sausages (merguez, kefta, chorizo, etc), though that may be more exclusive to Toulouse than to France as a whole.
Yogurt and yogurt-like foods also get almost an entire aisle to themselves. I say yogurt-like foods because there’s not only the puddings and little prepackaged desserts like you would get in the United States but also some foods that are uniquely French—fromage frais, les faisselles and les caillés. Fromage frais is an unripened, unsalted cow’s milk cheese. It’s usually enriched with cream, so you end up with a very smooth and creamy product. It’s sold in little plastic containers, much like yogurt, and eaten as a dessert, inverted into a plate and served with honey, sugar or fresh fruit. La faisselle is also a smooth, enriched cow’s milk cheese, but it’s packaged in its own liquid. You lift it out of the container using a little plastic mesh bucket. I believe the word for that type of bucket in French is faisselle, so that’s where the cheese gets its name. Finally, caillé is like cottage cheese, but unsalted and with a much smaller grain. It’s often made from lamb’s milk though, and is sometimes flavored with vanilla.
Finally, Auchan’s wine section makes me incredibly happy. It’s pretty large—three aisles, and almost exclusively dedicated to domestic wine. There might be a little Spanish and Italian wine, but next to nothing from the “New World” of viniculture. There’s a nice range of wines from the local AOCs (Gaillac and Fronton) as well as from other areas of France. It’s also significantly cheaper, since you don’t have to fly the bottles across the Atlantic. For instance, at Total Wine and More, my dad and I had tried a Chateau Tour de Bonnet, a white Sauvignon Blanc/Semillon mix from Bordeaux. It cost $13 at Total Wine and four euros (about $6) here.
This price difference means that I can also get some very good wines for a very reasonable price. Thus, I have a proposal to make. I’m going to do some wine reviews on this blog. Originally, I was thinking once a week, but I feel like bad things might happen if I try and consume a bottle of wine myself per week, so it shall be a wine review of however long it takes me to finish the prior bottle.
This, I think, is going to be the first one I review. Feel free to leave suggestions on what else I should try!