We were off to have a quintessential Parisian summer picnic at Jardin du Luxembourg. I had done my research and had a list of the best places to shop in the 6th arrondissement to find the perfect delicacies for our lunch. First up was Poilâne bakery. Being one of the oldest and most famous bakeries in Paris, it was worth getting lost down a few streets so we could stock up on some bread. Next stop was Le Bon Marché department store, which includes La Grande Épicerie de Paris on the bottom floor. I had read this was one of the best gourmet food markets in all of the city, if not the world! Wow. Quite a claim and definitely a must-visit for our picnic supplies.
Seeing past the dust and renovation, my eyes widened at the gastronomical feast. The fresh seafood bar, meat counter, cheese aisle, and of course patisseries, were stunning. Besides these stations of food, they also had aisles and aisles of international fare, broken down by country. Browsing the English aisles, I spied traditional marmalades, plenty of gourmet biscuits and specialty teas. Next up was the Italian section. Designer pastas, a wide variety of pasta sauces and panaforte treats lined the shelves. I turn to the next aisle to see the Asian delicacies; rice noodles, specialty soy sauces, curry pastes and red hot chiles too.
My mouth was now watering and excited to check out what the Bon Marché buyers of fine foods world wide would stock on the American shelves. Perhaps some famous San Francisco sourdough bread mix, or how about some grade A Vermont Maple syrup? There might be coffee from Seattle, smoked salmon from Alaska, beignet mix from New Orleans, and prickly pear nectar from Arizona. How about salt water taffy from the Jersey Shore, clam chowder from Massachusetts or macadamia nuts from Hawaii? Any of those to name a few?
No. When we looked through the US aisle, it was clear to us the type of foods that were truly considered American. Front and center was Fluff. Yes, Fluff. That’s marshmallow stuff. Frankly, I’m not quite sure what it is used for, but there it was. And, not just “regular” flavor Fluff, but they also had strawberry flavored Fluff. If that wasn’t bad enough, I then saw the Oreo flavored Jell-o. Yes, that is right. Not good old unnaturally processed Oreos, but Oreo flavored Jell-o. Jell-o. Yuck! Those 2 items alone told me things were not looking good for the Americans. Next up was s’more flavored Pop-Tarts, Apple Jacks, Fruit Loops and Krusteaz muffin mix. Then there was microwave popcorn with fake butter, Kraft Easy Cheese, and mini-colored marshmallows. (I had to ask myself, what is it with marshmallows?)
The only, yes only 2 redeeming food items on the entire American shelf were canned pumpkin and Tabasco sauce. Canned pumpkin seemed to be one of the least processed foods, as well as it does have a huge following in America during the Fall months. If you don’t believe me, just take a look at Pinterest in October and see all the pinned pumpkin recipes! As for Tabasco sauce, now that is a true American original. Born and raised on the beautiful pepper farms in Louisiana, and sprinkled on almost everything from eggs to shrimp, Tabasco is definitely an American favorite (although the Thai Sriracha sauce is a close rival.)
So what does an American do at La Grande Épicerie after seeing the American section? Run for the doors cowering in shame? No, we held our heads high, and proceeded to the more civilized food sections to stock our picnic supplies.
Once in Luxembourg gardens, we spread out our treats and dug in. The fresh artisan bread from Poilâne, the gourmet provençal olives and fine French cheeses were divine. I have to admit, even though the food representation of America at the top gourmet food store in Paris was appalling, I think we can always learn a thing or two from the French in regards to cuisine.
8 Rue du Cherche-Midi, 75006 Paris, France
Le Bon Marché Rive Gauche et La Grande Epicerie de Paris
38, Rue de Sèvres, 75007 Paris, France
Jardin du Luxembourg
6th arrondissement, 75006 Paris, France