dimanche 24 février 2013

Man cannot live on fromage and baguette alone

When people hear (or read, as in this case) that I live in France, they automatically assume that all I feed my family is wonderfully runny cheeses and heavenly artisanal baguettes day in and day out.

Let me clear up this misconception right now.  We are one of the few families I know that never puts bread out on the table (unless we have guests over, then it's a noblesse oblige kind of thing) and it's been awhile since I've brought home a good stinky époisse.

When I first moved to France, I was really gung-ho about doing everything like a native.  I shopped uniquely at the marché (never a supermarket!  That would be treason!) swinging my little net bag (your rarely see these anymore and that's a sad thing), and practicing my poor French with the vendors.  It was one of the best immersion experiences you could get outside of a classroom.
Oh little net bag, how I miss ye.  Although I don't miss people seeing what I've purchased.

That attitude lasted for years, probably a a couple of decades.  By the time I got married and had a couple of franco-american kids, I figured I'd assimilated as much as I was ever going to, and could start being my bad American self, which meant (among other things) buying American products without hiding them from public view.  It wasn't the taco shells that were going to betray my origins anyway; it was more likely that my less-than-svelte morphology and wild curly hair were going to scream AMERICAN as soon as I walked out my door.

You can tell an integrated expat by how they just don't give a damn anymore about passing for Parisian.  It's like we've come full circle...one day I was all about the little blue and white striped marinière; flash forward 20 years and now I just pull on my big old college sweatshirt.  Seriously, I'm never going to fool anyone into thinking I'm French (unless I take up smoking and wearing fur, and even then...).

 Avoid wearing this with a beret, unless you want to look like a mime.

So it was without one ounce of guilt or skulking about that I went  to check out the new mall SoOuest.  Which means SoWest.  What a stupid name.  This reminds me of a really-poorly named soup you can find at Picard* called SoSoup.  What genius brander came up with that name?  "Hmmm.  This soup is really....soup.  No!  It's more than soup.  It's SO SOUP!"

Anyway, SoOuest.  That doesn't mean it's like a "western-themed mall" by the way.  It just means it is situated in Levallois, which is a suburb in the (you guessed it) western part of the Paris region. 

SoOuest houses one of the new Marks and Spencers, a department store that had been banished from France about 10 years ago due to declining sales but I suspect it was because they asked their French employees to actually work and that was against union rules so rather than try and negotiate this**  the Brits pulled out of the French market.  But now they are back HALLELUJAH so I took the girls out there and it was like a little slice of heaven.

SoOuest has an anglo-saxon feel to it.  It's light and airy--there's a glass ceiling which gives you the impression you are in a lovely greenhouse--and all the employees have been trained to be nice and friendly.   For a moment I thought I was back in the USA until we needed to go to the toilet and of course there was only one set of toilets on one floor of the mall, situated at the complete opposite end of where we were.  Now that's just crazy because you often go to the mall with small children who always need to pee RIGHT NOW and the French are just setting themselves up here for children relieving themselves in the fountains, greenery, corner spaces, etc.  

 Don't complain, SoOuest, when people start using your potted plants as urinals. 

We were thrilled to see a number of American and British offerings amongst the food purveyors.  We chose Pret-A-Manger which despite its name is English (we like to go there when we go to London).  I fed the three of us for 30 euros, a bargain here.  The girls enjoyed these muffins, and I had a slice of carrot cake with my sandwich.  Carrot cake is something that freaks the French out in the same way that pumpkin pie or zucchini bread does, so you just can't pass it up when you see it for sale.

 Big muffins nicely served on a silver tray by really friendly people

Then it was on to Marks and Spencers where I descended into the food hall and decided I wanted to take up residence there.  They bring the food over every.single.day on the earliest Eurostar (a freight one, not the one people ride in) and everything is just like it is in the UK down to the takeway curries and oddly-flavored crisps.

 I bow down to your anglo-greatness.  And your cinnamon pecan rolls.

We stocked up on American-style cakes, breads, crackers, and mexican food and I can't wait to go back.  It's not too far from us--we live on the western side of Paris, or should I say the SoWest side of Paris so it's a quick trip when we get tired of French food.

Which really doesn't happen that often.After all, there's a billion things you can do with horsemeat.
Wow.  I thought you could only find horsemeat in frozen lasagne.  But no, at SoOuest you can buy it freshly ground.  Neigh!

*Purveryor of horsemeat  frozen foods.

**See the recent brouhaha with Titan tires.