Well, That Was Unexpected

Real life is stranger than fiction...depending on which authors you read, of course.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Baby French and the marche

I'm taking French lessons in Paris. I believe I speak at the level of a 2 year old. So, I was in the Franprix, my local market, shopping away, and I remembered that while my landlord had some extra detergent, I had no dryer sheets. So I head to the detergent section and, as happens virtually every time I enter the Franprix, I become paralyzed. I am staring at a huge wall of godknowswhat. I am like a child, picking things up...shaking them, possibly sniffing (in the dairy aisle)...hmm. The French can actually be very kind, especially if you are really apologetic and polite, so I ask this girl coming down the aisle if she can help me. And I now know just enough French to be ridiculous. So I say  "I am searching for a piece of paper to put in the dryer." In my defense, I think in the states this would be enough to culminate in dryer sheets. But she is flabbergasted and skeptical, like I might be a firestarter. I believe firmly in my request so I repeat my "paper for the dryer" plea. She starts picking up boxes...and shaking them. She finally settles on some sheets that help prevent color leakage in the washer. Which is...also helpful, but not dryer sheets. Defeated, I resort to English and say "you know, those sheets of paper you put in the dryer that make clothes not stick together." and she says "I have never heard of that." For good reason. The French (and possibly all of Europe) don't use dryer sheets. You can wash your clothes with liquid or powder or tablets or dissolving sheets or weird plastic pods, but when it comes to drying, well, you're on your own. In their defense this is probably because so many of them line dry their clothes, which is anathema to me. The ladies at the laundromat confirmed this lack of any type of destatifying product. They were passing the time helping me with my baby French homework. (I had a super fun time explaining to them, as to my classmates earlier in the day, why an American would find the French word for shower, "DOUCHE", so funny. They were like "on American movies we have heard this word "douchebag", and we know it is bad, but what is it, a bag for the shower? ah, mes amis, non. since I'm on the subject, on a continent famous for bidets, the concept of douching was met with resounding puzzlement and a little horror.)

This incident leads me into my next get-rich-sort-of-quick scheme. I am going to be the Europe's first importer of dryer sheets. I am going to corner the market. When I explained the concept of the dryer sheet to my classmates, particularly the Swedes, they thought it was a brilliant invention. and I was like "they cost almost nothing but magically your clothes have no static."et voila!

But back to Franprix. the dairy aisle at Franprix is usually what gets me in trouble. For instance, did you know the French don't really put cream in their coffee? Just whole milk. so the concept of half-and-half does not exist. what does exist, however, are a variety of creams with varying fat content....is 12% fat more like half-and-half or 30%? If asked on the spot, I wouldve gone with 50%, but that's because when it comes to all things domestic, I am like Nell, the female version of the Faulknerian manchild. (12% is even thicker than half-and-half, if you are interested or also domestically disabled.) So I was back to my picking things up and shaking them routine. And I resorted to...asking a nice French lady which cream I would put in my coffee if I were to put cream into my coffee like an American would. And she confidently directed me toward a container of creamer I had automatically dismissed because its picture was of someone *pouring cream over a huge piece of SALMON*. But she was absolutely correct. I've experimented with the others, and their texture isn't right. Salmon creamer for the win!

My most recent Franprix dairy aisle confusion came when I was looking for an approximation of Greek Yogurt. The only brand that actually said "greek yogurt" was way too creamy. But I believe that if the US can have 10 brands of Greek yogurt, then France (so much closer to Greece and so much more needing to prop up its economy by buying it's wares) should have like 50. But I see only the one. So I explored, looking for high protein but low fat content. and I found something called "fromage blanc." It's everywhere. 10 brands, 10 sizes. But is it cheese? it says "fromage" but is in the kilo container normally reserved for yogurt or costco sized sour cream. And it costs 1.5 euro for the store brand. So I ask at the checkout counter "is this like yogurt?" and they go "no, no it's...well, it's creamy and you can't eat it for dinner. It is meant to be eaten at breakfast with sugar" okay, and I say again "comme yaourt?" (like yogurt?) and they again say "no, no" I'm going to save you another 10 minutes of boring discussion and tell you that it tastes exactly like frickin plain yogurt. Leave it to the Europeans to be intensely precise about identifying dairy products.

The incident reminded me of when people in Taiwan would say "oh you have to try this snack at the night market near the university, it's some meat and vegetables wrapped in dough and then boiled or fried" and I would say "you mean like dumplings?" and they would emphatically say "no, they are definitely NOT like dumplings, they are very unique" and I would go and try them and they would be...like dumplings. but maybe  a centimeter smaller than a normal dumpling or rectangular and fried. In fact, in Taiwan there are probably 15 words for things that are dough wrapped around meat then boiled and or fried. But the size or shape of the wrapper...whether there is juice inside....like a whole new world. not like dumplings at all. Except for being exactly like dumplings.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Love it!!


10:57 AM  
Anonymous Jennifer said...

Jules, this is Jennifer. Z,gave me your blog link. How is France? I didn't know you were going to be in Paris. Exciting! How long are you there?

9:45 AM  

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