They’ve not got the hang of fast food yet in France. We went on a long drive to the Alps in January, and stopping at a service station I was shocked at what I found. There were jars with what looked like pickled organs or medical experiments gone wrong in them. And the sandwiches were so sloppy you couldn’t even pick them out of the wrappers without them disintegrating. “Just stop at a restaurant, take a couple of hours and a few carafes and don’t be in such a hurry” you can hear French culture moaning on the breeze. Apparently last year was the first time fast food sales took more of the lunch market than traditional brasseries but they’ve really still got some way to go. With McDonald’s however they do have the right idea. Heineken! On the drive-thru drinks menu. Brilliant.
Burgers, though, have not made it into the general French consciousness – certainly not in traditional bun form. If you order one in a restaurant it’s likely to come sans bread, and you can’t buy buns in any boulangerie I’ve seen, so soggy BBQ burger sandwiches it is.
Shopping is still a frustrating experience for me generally. I swept round the aisles of Tesco like Dale Winton on speed, but in Intermarche I’m an anaesthetised blind tortoise. The groupings don’t make sense – crackers are not with the crisps, mayonnaise is not near the dips, the cheese packets all look the same and the words are indecipherable (they’re in French). The boyfriend sent me off to look for some crackers and found me in tears in the crisp aisle. “I knew where everything was in Tesco” I wailed. It was all a bit much when you’re suddenly the new girl at shopping again at 33.
There is one thing that makes me smile in a French supermarket – Mr Propre. He’s their equivalent of Mr Muscle, but he’s a Phil Mitchel look-a-like with an earring! Hilarious.