Shopping Like A French Girl
Updated: May 5
Why I shop everyday and won't be changing that habit anytime soon.
When people learn that I shop everyday. I am always met with a cascade of odd expressions and questions. Where do you find the time? Don't you spend more money? What about meal prep?
“For me it is not about the act of eating. It is the experience I have with the ingredients. From seeing the fresh ingredients to designing and combining the flavors to create something to be savored.”
I know that we all lead busy lives. I do not have children myself and the United States is not set up to be daily market walking friendly. The parking lot games alone are enough to keep many away for as long as possible. However, it is all about the power of habit, reduction in food waste, and fresh delicious meals.
Creating the Menu
One of my favorite things to discuss is food. The text between my husband and I are always lined with this common sentence: "What do you want to do for dinner tonight?". I love looking through recipes in cook books (William-Sonoma Cookbook and of course Julia Child's "Mastering the Art of French Cooking" top my list of go to reads. However, with the new age of Pinterest I have begun cultivating a large list of ideas and go-to recipes. I like this method because I can go into the grocery store and look at the ingredients and then make my decision. Having a few options means that you can adapt to what looks the freshest.
How We Are Different
In Europe shops have a singular purpose (bakery, butcher, cheese shop). This is still the main method of purchasing your staples. In this scenario you would go into your local shop and ask them what was special that day. What meat or produce looked the best and how they recommend preparing it. They are, of course, experts at their specific trade and really do know best. In the United States it is possible to find a knowledgeable butcher behind the counter of an in-store meat or fish counter, but more often than not people skip that step and buy the pre-packaged cuts neatly wrapped in plastic with their labels affixed. While I completely understand the convenience, and sometimes indulge in the ease of purchase myself, it does put a barrier of separation between you and the ingredients that are about to become part of you. I think of the small produce market by my Mother's house in Germany. They know her of course, and when we go in they can't wait to start making recommendations based on what's fresh and what they know her taste are. It is a relationship I really didn't think twice about until it didn't exist in my life upon moving to the United States. Let's face it in the U.S. it really isn't feasible to run to a farmer’s market every day. Most places do not have daily markets. A lot of indoor style farmers markets are opening up across the U.S. as a more permanent solution. Here in San Diego Liberty Station has opened with a butcher, baker, and even a candlestick maker! There are tons in New York depending on the neighborhood, and LA has the famous Grand Central Market. We vote with our dollar. If you are interested in finding local markets here is a great reference. Remember to look when you are on a road trip or vacation. It is a wonderful way to find local products.
How We Are the Same
Everyone enjoys a great meal. If you ask someone if they would love to sit down (at a table) for an hour either by themselves or with friends/family every day and share a meal they had shopped for and prepared they would inevitably say "yes". In the U.S. time and convenience seem to be the ultimate enemy. Mostly the question I get is "where do you find the time". Time is something we share. I don't have more of it than the next person. It is simply a power of habit and priorities. The pride you feel in preparing a meal that you had every part in preparing surpasses any thought of that Park and Rec marathon you wanted to indulge in. It is a wonderful reward system. I put on a Billie Holiday station over Alexa and start the meal with a smile. I love talking to my friends or husband about recipes, preparing the meal with my husband, decorating the plate while channeling my inner #gordonramsay.
My inclination is to believe you will too. If this isn't part of your daily routine, try it for a week. Observe how you feel. How much time does it really take? But more importantly do you get enjoyment out of it that surpasses the extra time spent? If it becomes a joy instead of a chore, a source of pride instead of box waiting to be checked, you may change your habits naturally. The desire to nourish ourselves is innate. It is a small step from there to a 3-hour dinner with the remote laying forgotten on the couch. Try it yourself and let me know your thoughts!