To me, supermarkets in France always seem out of place. In a country so well known for their (bi-)weekly greenmarkets, artisan bakeries and fromageries, a one-stop shop seems anathema to the classic culinary culture. This distaste is reflected by legal confinements, put in place to restrict the growth of such stores in Paris – most notably that no supermarket within the city limits can be greater than 8000 square feet. So, no Super Stop & Shop (or even Whole Foods) here. Which is a good thing, forcing person like me, who would rather hide from speaking French and interacting with the locals, into those specialty stores to find the tastiest treats. However, supermarkets are not all bad and, as in any new country and culture, they are filled with new and exciting things to try.
First on my list was tuna fish. This is one of my main pantry staples, and my love for the oft overlooked, but rampantly consumed poisson goes way back. I was always the kid in second grade that pulled a soggy tuna salad sandwich out of my brown paper bag at lunchtime. Along with an apple and snack-sized bag of Fritos. Always made the same way – StarKist water-packed tuna fish, Best Food’s mayonnaise and sweet relish. No blasphemous celery or green onion. No lettuce, tomato or cheese (unless it entered the dinner realm and then it transformed into a special treat – the tuna melt) And always on Arnold’s wheat bread, crusts and all. I can sense some of you squirming from here. I was the girl with the fishy sandwich when everyone else had neutral-scented bologna and cheese. Yet to me, it was delicious. Still is, however my tastes have progressed a bit since then.
As to be expected, France takes a good thing and makes it utterly delicious. Rather than pack the tuna in water, here it is packed in oil. This is not especially unique – the Italians are famous for it. What pushes it into ‘straight-out-of-the-can-and-onto-my-Boursin-schmeared-baguette-to-be-eaten-immediately’ territory is that it comes packed in ‘salad’ form – already mixed with vegetables, spices or sauces, which makes it completely unique, to me. You can still buy tuna with mayonnaise, but I have not yet tried this obvious variety. I am too stuck eating the fish complemented by sun-dried tomatoes (and therefore soaking in sun-dried tomato oil and spices – yum) or roasted red peppers. This tuna is perfectly flaky and its surrounding ‘salad’ is spiced and ready to top a quick salad or sandwich. Tonight, after a long day, it was the aforementioned baguette. First layered with Boursin Ail & Fines Herbes and then topped by tuna with sun-dried tomatoes, this open faced sandwich, accompanied by fresh red pepper and a few olives, was the perfect light dinner, munched on the go while I cleaned and prepared for the German’s arrival.
Now that I will have assistance, I can finally take some photos of my favorite French supermarket section: dairy. It is beyond belief and perhaps possible that experiencing that much dairy-goodness in one place means I can die happy.