Friday, 28 February 2014

Finding France

I hate to whine, but the food here just isn't as fantastic as it was in France.

I'm talking mostly about fresh fruits and vegetables.  True, it's February, the most dismal month for good fresh food.  If you aren't sick of root vegetables already, you will be in the next couple weeks.  I'm hoping with the looming springtime, things will improve.  The grocery store produce is just icky and sad, and the Saturday street markets that pop up in every neighborhood is only slightly better.

No need for Kale Ladies here, they have already embraced Hipster Lettuce as their own!

The curries are fantastic though.  I've had several that were amazingly good, and some craveable Thai and Japanese as well.  It's much easier to find good ethnic food here than it is in Paris.  I guess that's the effect that happens when your local cuisine isn't always the most appetizing?  Boiled meat, anyone?

Everyone kept telling me, "Borough Market is overpriced; it's for tourist".  I'll agree that it is a bit more expensive to shop there and mobbed on Saturdays, but the quality is miles better than anyplace else.  So stop saying "it's for tourist" because you are basically saying, "only tourist have good taste, we all traditionally eat rubbish".  Not only do they have really great produce, they have some French cheese importers that make it all better, and some prepared foods that are worth the trip to huddle around in a forlorn corner to balance in hand, including some of the best cornish pasties I've ever had.

The adorable pastie lady in Borough Market.  Putting to shame anyone who ever thought Sweeney Todd was #1.

A word about cheese:  Cheddar is great, and I'm quite in love with the crumbly mild tang of Wensleydale, but everything else I've tried so far has been inferior to their counterparts over the channel.  The cheese-mongers, ever so helpful, will doll out samples, saying, "this one is like Camembert, this one is like Beaufort...are you looking for a blue?  because this Stilton is similar to Roquefort".   I've tried some really excellent small producers that are making interesting cheese, and I'll keep you posted when I find something special.  I will keep trying anyway.  Neal's Yard has some excellent cheese- they provide Cheese for one of my favorite restaurants in Paris, Frenchie, including my absolute favorite Isle of Mull Cheddar, which I will subsist on solely if allowed.

Grocery shopping here is kind of an adventure in a bad way.  They just have so much weird, processed, odd foods and sauces, mostly in tins or frozen, totally unappetizing.  I'm going to have to document this next time I go, as some of it is just mystifying.

Mostly, I miss the daily street markets in Paris.  The rapport you have with the sellers and farmers is priceless, and being able to run out and get really fresh lovely produce is something I'll never tire of.  In the past few weeks, I've had more mushy, mealy apples than I care to.  Boo.  You aren't really going to encourage people to eat healthy if you aren't offering them appetizing things.

I never got his real name as he was always "Monsieur Pêche" to me.  He knew how to pick the best peaches, nectarines, clementines and berries for me, and it didn't seemed odd at all that I would seek him out four times a week to get my fix.  He humored my French, and I'd like to think that he misses me.  
Still, they seem to be closeted francophiles here, and I found a French cafe in the Brixton Village Market selling all sorts of goodies, including Sel de Mer butter and a good variety of saucison sec (including donkey!).  I have quickly become a loyal client.

Bottom line:  I will not be starving any time soon.

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