The interest in food and its importance in
everyday life is reflected in the quality and range of the foods
available in France. Even convenience foods, which are becoming
increasingly popular, are represented by a range of immense variety and
sophistication, giving a choice that would be inconceivable to
housewives in many other countries. Such choice exists not only in the
hypermarkets but in the groceries of small towns and large villages.
the field of traditional, ready-prepared foods such as cooked meats and
pastries, standard items in French meals, even a small-town
charcutier may stock up to twenty different kinds of cooked meats
and other savory dishes, such as ballotines, pates and terrines,
rillettes, andouilles, sausages and locally cured hams as well as
prepared dishes like eggs in aspic or quiches. The small-town baker may
have six or seven different types of freshly baked bread, often baked on
the premises, although it is becoming harder, even in France, to find
the traditional country breads such as rye and wholemeal. The local
patissier in the same small town will have an extensive range of
open fruit tarts and freshly made traditional pastries as well as local
delicacies and various types of homemade sweets.
Most small towns have a market once a week.
Much of the local produce on sales will have been brought in by the
producers themselves - mounds of fresh garlic, seasonal vegetables of
all kinds, eggs, fruit and various kinds of edible fungi. Some farmers'
wives will bring in regional specialties such as cakes they have made
themselves, their own freshly killed poultry, or cream and cheese made
from their own cows' or goats' milk. Other market stalls will be devoted
to various kinds of olives and pickles, such as gherkins and peppers
preserved in olive oil. There will also be an astonishing choice of
fish, all laid out on blocks of ice to keep it fresh, even at markets
well inland, and probably stalls selling dried cod too.
Non-local produce may be in evidence, too,
where traveling shops specializing in, for example, cheeses or cooked
meats, have set up stalls for the day. Butchers will have done the same,
while elsewhere live rabbits, ducks, chickens and snails will be on sale
to discerning customers.