France - Choice of Food

France - Choice of Food

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.

In 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.

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