The Experienced Travelers have all the flashing Eiffel Towers, Montmartre sno-globes and “I Ate Snails” tee shirts we’ll ever need. So we are left to apply our considerable shopping energies toward something with immediate benefit – the fresh food on offer in the irresistible Parisian food markets, that will be destined for our rental apartment kitchen.
I believe that because it’s French food and a French kitchen, our humble victuals will automatically transform into haute-cuisine, no matter how badly I prepare them while Nurse is out of the room.
When our friends Barbara and Chris arrived jet-lagged, dinner at home was the way to enjoy good food and have an early night. We drew up our dinner strategy over chocolat chaud. Barbara, Chris and I had assigned courses to buy, while Nurse directed our forays.
Christine was in charge of veggies, and applied her business acumen to the rows of attractive fresh vegetables. The French have come around to the practice of self-service. Years ago, you had to wait for the Produce Man to choose, bag and weigh for you. This was never an inconvenience because the Produce Man was often attractive and flirtatious, making it a pleasure to part with a few francs.
Faced with a myriad of choices, Chris decided some plump and pretty white asparagus would grace the table admirably. We’ll have to ask her if she thought the Produce Man would grace the table admirably too.
Barbara had the enviable category of dessert and found a small pâtisserie in the rue Cler. The hardest part was deciding among the calorie-laden choices. Despite her jet lag, Barbara called upon her Sacred Heart French and did an admirable job communicating with the assistant behind the counter. Nice work, Pal!
With cunning, I chose the main course so I could procure one of the roasted chickens that turn slowly in special chicken ovens strategically placed outside many bûcheries. Equally cunning, these ovens waft the enticing smell of roasting bird into the nostrils and brain synapses of passing shoppers. Those ovens deliver a real return on investment.
There is purchasing protocol at the bûcherie too. I discussed with the butcher the merits of each chicken – size, price and worthiness. After choosing our chicken, he gave me a ticket to take to the cashier at the back of the store. I paid, then brought the receipt back to the butcher and collected my prize, wrapped and ready for the table.
Meanwhile, I trusted that Nurse was creating calligraphy menus and place cards, and letting our complimentary bottle of wine breathe.
If you’re staying in a hotel, visit the charcuteries, where you can buy ready-to-enjoy foods prepared by the the talented staff. The butcher will cut your chicken and the local wine shop will be happy to uncork your bottle. All you’ll need are utensils and a pleasant spot to eat.
So under Nurse’s supervision, we set to work in our apartment kitchens. In short order, we were dining en famille on the fruits of our shopping – and at a very reasonable price, leaving Found Money for our adventures the next day.
Dear Readership, don’t be shy about shopping at the local stores in your neighborhood. If you’re uneasy about speaking French, rely on the international language of pointing, gestures and smiles. It’s an affordable way to dine and there might be a handsome Produce Man to make it worthwhile.