lundi 23 décembre 2013

No more geese except on my plate

I knew the foie gras was coming 'round when there were no more geese padding about on his land.

All year long I watch these fowl friends, moving herdlike from the water to the mud to the shelter on Laurent Callebaut's property.    Monsieur Callebaut is a master goose-raiser who oversees a gaggle of 1,000 oies, taking them from egg to table.  His farm is right across the Route Nationale 12, and I pass it each weekend as I enter and exit my little village.  Christmas is a busy time for him, selling his wares out of a little cabana right next to his house.  Inside are shelves of foie gras cuit, goose rillettes, goose pâtés and other wonderful derivatives of all things geese.

This year he had a refrigerator that held the crown jewels of his production:  the foie gras mi-cuit (more flavorful than the cuit) and my Christmas dinner:  guinea fowl stuffed with foie gras and fig, infused with armagnac, vacuum-sealed and ready for a slow roast.

The for-and-against controversy surrounding the production and the consumption of foie gras notwithstanding (and I can soundly defend either side of the coin); it comes down to this:  Foie gras is a cultural artifact on France's Christmas table.  Whether you buy it at Aldi (low-cost) or Fauchon (pricey), this addition to the traditional menu is an expected component, opening the meal and setting the stage for the second act (smoked salmon and blinis).  There are those Master Chefs who will trick it out-- recent embellishments include a lightly-fried slice 0f gingerbread upon which will rest the gloriously unctuous sliver of liver.  Others might layer a spoonful of spicy Christmas chutney on top of the fatty spread, with a sprinkle of fleur de sel to set off that splendid savory-sweet note.  But there are always the Traditionalists, those who keep the toaster right at the table so they can catch the plain baguette as it pops out, ready to be the warm bed upon which the foie gras will rest (and melt).

The absence of those fat and happy geese running around like crazy toddlers did make me a little sad when I passed by Monsieur Callebaut's farm earlier this month.  But the promise of his delicate foie gras adorning my holiday table helped me override my moment of emotion. Joyeuses fêtes, tout le monde.

dimanche 29 septembre 2013

Les Berges

Paris Mayor Betrand Delanoë has been a trailblazer for several grand-scale urban projects during his mandate, but none annoyed me more than Les Berges, inaugurated earlier this year.  To bring his 35 million euro folie green space dream to fruition, he closed off 2.3 kilometers of the voie rapide, a Left Bank expressway used by automobilistes to rapidly cross Paris from east to west.  The voie rapide dips down from the main surface streets to run parallel to the Seine.  There are no traffic lights, few entrances and exits, and was--until January 1st of this year,--a key part of my daily commute.

Delanoë has always been quite vocal of his dislike of cars in the capital.  Other projects he spearheaded include the conversion of car lanes into bus and bike lanes, as well as the Velib', Paris' bike-scheme.  His dream is to have a car-free Paris, a dream that irritates France's automotive industry for obvious reasons.  While he would never say there is a connection, PSA (Peugeot- Citroën) is at this time forced to close down their plant in Aulnay, putting 3,000 workers on the unemployment rolls.  So while it's good fun to rent a bike, or stroll along Les Berges during the 50 (and that's optimistic) rainfree days we have each year, those who backed Delanoë's projects should not now be crying that their payroll contributions to the unemployment coffers are increasing. 

It isn't just that my formerly-speedy commute has been compromised by this urban promenade space.  What irritates me is that Les Berges is yet another of those big, shiny, show-offy projects that has been rolled out with masses of fanfare, but that will undoubtedly fall into shambles in a few years.  Look at what happened when they launced Velib in 2007:   loads of press about how Paris will be the new Amsterdam, people will leave their cars at home and take up biking, and we will all be one big happy family of Lance Armstrongs.  Six years later, 40% of the bikes have been either stolen or vandalized, and little funds are allocated to maintain the bikes that still have a seat on them.  It is well-known that Paris has a habit of striking a budget line for any project created by a former government.  I have no doubt that Les Berges will one day be a mess of splinters and grafitti-ed furnishings, so I urge you to go and see it now while this project enjoys its glory days.

This is where I used to exit the expressway at the Pont de l'Alma.  Now a pedestrian path.

facing west
facing east


This is cool.  A series of floating gardens/lounging areas that were floated down the Seine from Le Havre (where they were constructed) and tethered.  They move gently with the current of the river, which is kind of a surprise when you assume you are stepping out onto a fixed platform.

There are these little squares of greenery bobbing up and down next to the five platforms.

Just one of the lounging areas (note no sun) moving back and forth with the water.  The guy in the tie is a security agent.  And working on a Sunday!!!!  Call the labor union!!!!

Here's another lounging area.  You can't see it in the photo, but the blocks become greener in tint as they descend towards the river, to become "one with the water."  Only France can wax philosophical about concrete seating.

Hooray!  Something is handicapped-accessible here! 

They reused the wood from the containers that carried the stuff down from Le Havre for seating (or stretching) all along the promenade.

This zone, le verger (orchard), was awesome.  It was funded not by my taxes but in partnership with a seed company, Truffaut.  You can pick leaves and flowers and then make yourself a hot herbal tea using a solar device.

All the pots are tagged so you don't inadvertantly pick marijuana or something like that.  Here we have some giant rhubarb and some prehistoric plant that I also saw at The Grove Shopping Center in LA last summer.

I loved the tags

You can do yoga class here, too.  Who would do yoga with a scarf draped so gracefully around the neck?  A Parisian!

There are two mind-blowing elements in this photo, elements that go against the cultural grain.  The first is the free water.  The second is the restrooms.

Not only are there restrooms, but there is a handicapped restroom.  Unbelievable.

Here's a dining option along the promenade.  The French are just getting into food trucks (although the government is working hard to block the enterpreneurs' selling permits) and they really like Airstream trailers.  For some reason this eatery is called "The Faust."  Maybe eating there requires one to make a Faustian bargain.

Faust certainly doesn't offer a lot of choices.

There's a board game area .  And this one has a Sunday worker, too!  This gives me an idea:  perhaps all the salespeople who lost their jobs when the union forced Castorama and Leroy Merlin (France's Home Depots) to close on Sundays could be reconverted to cleaning people for the Berges, because for some suspicious reason, the workers here are allowed to hold jobs on Sunday.  I suspect Delanoë paid off the CGT labor union.

jeudi 26 septembre 2013

Sephora and Chain Gang labor

The labor unions have once again managed to irritate an entire spectrum of people, from workers to consumers, with their latest target : forcing the gorgeous and always-packed Sephora on the Champs-Elysées to close each night at 9pm, rather than midnight as it had been doing enjoyably for years.

The reason?  Working "late" is bad for employees' health.

It's not as if working at Sephora is like mining (hazardous) or working a double shift at the cannery (tiresome).  It's a department store, for goodness sake!   The employees, many of whom are students, were thrilled to earn the extra 50% over their base salary as well as double vacation time.  Sephora employees working this particular shift were not coerced; they had all specifically asked for these lucrative hours, and many had held this shift for years.

This anachronistic situation reminds me of another odd, labor union-related holdover that exists in France: the special compensation for SNCF (train) workers, called the "prime de charbon" literally a "coal bonus hazard pay" even though the trains haven't used coal since 1974.  Still on the books, however, because once a union wins a benefit for a workers' group, it is impossible to rescind it.   Look what happened when the government tried to update the retirement age--a legitimate crusade now that we all don't die at age 55.   What do you mean I can't retire at 52?  The French are still taking to the streets on that one.

This Sephora thing is but one example of the shortview here.   30% of under-25 year olds in France are unemployed and would be happy to find themselves filling in the extra-hours gap that nine to fivers don't want....if those extra hours were available.  On the other hand, you have Eric Scherrer, the union leader who led the fight against Sephora's long day, saying how those poor workers will end up in the hospital and OMG....letting people work late might morph into something equally ghastly....shops opening on Sunday!!!! 

Don't get me started on the 35-hour work week, legislated to provide more jobs.  Right.  We all know what happened with that:  no new jobs were created.  They just worked the existing workforce more to do in 35 hours what they had done in 37.5 hours/week previously. 

And if you were a civil servant, that meant nothing changed.  You just screwed off for 35 hours/week rather than 37.5.

 There are plenty of businesses on the Champs-Elysées that work past midnight.  The cinemas' last screenings are at 23h00; the Lido's final show begins then as well.  Restaurants serve late into the evening, bars are open until 2am and the nightclubs don't get hopping until the wee hours of the morning.  The Champs-Elysées is a beehive of beautiful people during these late hours, consumers willing and able to drop in and spend some money on perfume.  Indeed, 20% of that store's revenue was made at night.
It's just crazy to target Sephora.

Maybe Scherrer has some kind of lipstick phobia.  Because "protecting workers" just doesn't make sense here.

vendredi 5 juillet 2013

Le 10

There was a bar I frequented in the 90s when I was a student here called le 10.  Situated on the rue de l'Odéon across the street from the original Shakespeare & Company, where Sylvia Beach published Joyce's Ulysses in 1922, I cannot now remember why I first started going to that bar or how I knew it was there.  I wasn't at all a drinker so it amazes me now that I was even drawn to such a place with its small and unremarkable façade.  Even back then it looked weather-worn and tired and not the kind of hangout which says "Come on in; good fun is to be had inside!"  The picture below, taken recently, shows le 10 still looking very much as it looked when it was my Saturday night go-to spot, although in my grad school days it was painted dark green.

If you peered through the barred window 25 years ago, you'd get a glimpse of the cramped quarters, mosaic floor, and the jukebox, a jukebox whose favored offering seemed to be Louis Prima's "Just A Gigolo."  Every hour,  someone in the crowd would drop a franc into the slot and select that tune, provoking the room into a group-singing experience, with people up on their chairs waving napkins around, over and over into the late night.  It was an early version of today's flashmob.

There was also a basement room for those who were willing to descend into this unventilated, hot and sticky cave.  Again, no space to move about; once you grabbed a chair and sat down, you were stuck there for the evening.  The servers had to pass the pitchers of the house sangria via the nearest person and count on them making their way down the table to the appropriate party.  It was most certainly a fire trap.

Such a tiny and nondescript little place--the French would say ça ne paie pas de mine, "it doesn't look like much"--yet I've discovered it showing up in other people's lives like some kind of common Parisian touchstone.   In Lily King's first novel The Pleasing Hour, her protagonist goes to meet up another au pair girl at le 10.   The bar was in fact a haunt for many au pairs of my era; the Swedish girls were very loyal to it.  Recently I was watching French TV and was surprised to see a little clip of Daniel Auteuil and a trio of other actors exiting le 10 after having been interviewed inside.   And the other day I was talking about le 10 to a colleague (we were reminiscing about our youth) and she told me that she used to hang out there as well, when she came to Paris on a study abroad program.

It wasn't the potent sangria that drew me to le 10.  I think what I liked about the place was the "Cheers" factor:  I could drop in and always find someone interesting or fun to talk with.  It wasn't chic, in fact it was rather homely, but it was safe and welcoming.  And given that it has survived all these years, I suspect it must still be that way. 

jeudi 30 mai 2013

Better Baccalauréats Through Pharmaceuticals

  You can tell we are approaching the Baccalaureat, or "bac" examination period because the pharmacy windows are displaying all their "memory-enhancing" homeopathic granules, sublingual pills, topical salves and herbal tinctures.  The French baccalauréat exam, which is actually a series of exams taken during the last two years of high school, dates back to the 13th century.  At that time, four areas of expertise were evaluated:  theology, law, medicine and the arts.  Today's examiners will pose their questions to the entire nation of high school students in the areas of French language, philosophy, history, geography, mathematics, natural sciences, physical education, and two foreign languages.  And that's just the base; depending on which bac the student chooses (literature, economics and social sciences, or science), other subject area exams are added to the mix.

No wonder there is a brisk business in folklore remedies.  "A couple of glasses of champagne each week" is my favorite one; something in the bubbles encourages retention in certain areas of the brain.  This tip is most likely popularized by Veuve Cliquot.

You'd think that France would have built up a huge ancillary industry around the Bac.   I've watched what has happened to college admissions in the U.S.A. over the years and am astounded at the enormous amount of service providers ready to take your money, having replaced (more likely supplanted) college guidance counselors and good, old parental support.  From "Educational Consultants" to "Application Coaches", these "experts" recognize a market that can be easily convinced to outsource what was, in my day, work traditionally undertaken by all college-bound high school students.  Sure, it was tough to sort out where you wanted to spend your next four years, but reading over the (hard copy!) catalogues and typing up your personal statements contributed to the natural excitement inherent in playing a part in your own destiny.  How sad for the family that thinks their child is not capable of doing this himself.

No, France has not yet caught on to this opportunity to separate French parents from their euros by convincing them that the schools aren't doing their jobs and Academics R Us can provide Bac Preparation for a fee.  That said, there are a few shady entrepreneurs out there who have offered special intensive review sessions for these important exams.   One of them, Acadomia, was sued in 2010, not only for hiring a non-diploma-holding staff of "Educators," but for keeping internal memos on their clients with irrelevant notations such as "father in prison,"  "mother of student stinks," or "adopted child."   I don't think they are still in business.

So for now, French parents continue to rely on the "sweat of your brow" approach to test preparation, with just a little help from Arctic Root and Gingko Biloba.  As the parent of a child heading into her Baccalauréat exams next month, you can be sure I'm stocking up.

lundi 27 mai 2013

More on language

I watched « The Interpreter » last night. A good, sophisticated story and I was impressed that the crew was able to film in the real United Nations. What really spoke to me in the movie was how the Nicole Kidman character, who plays a UN translator, viewed the sanctity and power of the languages she worked in. There were some quotable lines which, sadly, I did not note down quickly enough to remember.

I work primarily in one language—English—during my day job. But I have a second job as a freelance translator where my brain toggles between French and English (I translate both towards and away from the target language) continually as I work. I translate in two specialty areas: the pharmaceutical industry and technical manuals for software (which is the height of irony, considering what a non-geek I am). Both areas demand critical accuracy (if I were to mistake “voie rectale” for “voie orale”, the patient would be in big trouble) although I would opine that translating technical prose is a little less demanding, due to the amount of repetition these manuals consist of.

The real challenge and satisfaction for any interpreter or translator is when we are able to perform the language shift, in the Jakobson sense, of manipulating not only the words (the signifiers) but (and more importantly) the intent (the signified) that exists beneath, behind and inside the logical and grammatical structures of the source language. This is much more complex than it seems to the layperson, for it demands a thorough knowledge of both the source and target culture’s history, politics, and gender dynamics, to name only three domains any good translator has to be able to reference.

Take the example of a simple French word, gare. Translated into English as “train station” what do those two words signify? If you are an average American, “train station” will evoke architecture of another century, of an earlier America. You might even include, in your mental image, a station master checking a pocket watch and shouting “all aboard!” If you are young, you may have never boarded a train in your life, and therefore would have an even more-removed and antiquated simulacrum of what a train station is, fed by media and Harry Potter films.

But for the French, whose country’s arteries are made of steel, the word gare connotes nothing but another of their daily objects. Its appearance in a text is not remarkable and does not send the reader into a wistful daydream of a bygone era. (Let me specify here that I am talking about veritable train stations, and not subway or commuter train stations.) The meaning of that simple word is something completely different when considered within the cultural context.

I don’t think sanctity of language is limited to the fields of interpretation and translation. I know that even working in the monolingual sphere, I often have difficulty making what I want to say become what my listener hears. So when you are reading my blog and thinking “what in the world could she possibly mean by that?” just chalk it up to a grand misalignment of symbols, signs and referents. In pop culture terms, I’m Venus and you might be Mars.

dimanche 12 mai 2013

Coffee Break

 I'm not sure why it is but I don't spend nearly enough time in any of Paris' 7,000 cafés.  I'd venture to guess this is a result of my daily life, which, like that of most of my friends, is meted out to the beat of métro-boulot-dodo (subway-work-sleep) and doesn't allow me to include much sitting-around-in-a-café in the mix.  Sadly, because these moments are really essential to feeling Parisian.

So last week, when I found myself having to visit the café near my work several times a day (our water has been turned off which meant the WC was out of service), I got to use this as an excuse to catch up on some café time.

Cafés have a three-tier system of pricing.   Ordering at the bar, or "le zinc" is the cheapest way to eat or drink; sitting down inside the place is a little more expensive, and you'll pay the premium price if you eat or drink at a sidewalk table.  So to reduce the expense of my toilet trips, I took my coffee at the bar. One euro was the price to pay but it was better than trying to sneak down the steps to the basement toilettes and risk being yelled at by the owner.  In France, you have to order something in order to use the facilities in a café.

The great thing about drinking standing up is that you can watch and listen to the personnel as they multi-task.  There is an entire symphony of café music:  the combination of pulling the coffees, setting the saucers and small cups on the zinc, sliding the sugar cubes and spoon into place...all this is background to the friendly barking of orders: un croissant pour le douze!!! un déca pour le sept!!! I was lucky enough to be standing there as the proprietor phoned in his meat order for the day.  Yummmm veal stew.

I spent a lot of my students days here in cafés.  People were allowed to smoke back then, a "right" that did not get outlawed until January 2007.  That perfume of tobacco and coffee was My Smell of Paris; something that, should I have caught a whiff of that elsewhere, always brought me back to the City of Light.  Thankfully, cafés are now smokefree but the lovely scent of coffee and whatever the cook is preparing as the plat du jour still prevails and reminds me that I do really need to spend more time in these places, relaxing, people watching, and being part of this iconic Parisian institution.

dimanche 5 mai 2013

Deconstructing the Oasis ad

There's an ad campaign currently gracing the métro platforms that I just love.  Not because of the product it's shilling (Oasis, a kind of Hawaiian Punch sugary "fruit" drink), but because it has a billion neat language layers to it.  There's tons going on underneath the rather immature graphics but you have to be a local to get it.  That's not really a good strategy for any ad campaign that's seen by loads of tourists, but I guess the Artistic Director didn't think beyond the native population during the strategy meetings.

Here's the ad:

"Paris, Ville Métropicale", or "Paris, A metrotropical city."...because Oasis is Tropical!  And you have what I assume is a mango with a backpack and sleeproll waiting on a métro platform while the train is entering (or maybe exiting) the station.
I always like métro ads that feature people (or fruits, in this case) that are IN THE METRO.  It gives the ad a sense of mise-en-abyme, or a fractal dimension that makes me think I'm in a Borges story.  It's so exciting to ponder this while I wait for the number eight to come along.

 Now this is really funny if you know your métro stations. "Cocomartin" is a play on words for the "Caumartin" station (actually Havre-Caumartin; you can just see a trace of the "re" in the ad).  Because, well, you know Oasis is TROPICAL! and so are coconuts.

This is the crown jewel of the ad's jokes.  Mr. Mango is holding a sign indicating that he wants to go to "Pere La Fraise"  A "fraise" is a strawberry, which is a TROPICAL fruit!  The Oasis people are, of course, refering to the famous Parisian cemetary Pere Lachaise.  Although I'm mystified as to why this guy would be hitchhiking when he is in a métro station.  Just take the train, Mr. Mango!

Lastly, Mr. Orange is sitting in front of a métro poster which displays a tenuous grasp of the English language.  "What Fruit You Expect" is mocking a real ad for Schweppes in which Uma Thurman lounges around in a chiffon gown and says "What do you expect?" when her interviewer asks her something about what beverage she is drinking.  (That Schweppes ad is actually terrible, come to think of it.)  I guess the Oasis people thought "fruit" sounded like "do", and, perhaps if the speaker is French, they aren't wrong.

dimanche 24 février 2013

Man cannot live on fromage and baguette alone

When people hear (or read, as in this case) that I live in France, they automatically assume that all I feed my family is wonderfully runny cheeses and heavenly artisanal baguettes day in and day out.

Let me clear up this misconception right now.  We are one of the few families I know that never puts bread out on the table (unless we have guests over, then it's a noblesse oblige kind of thing) and it's been awhile since I've brought home a good stinky époisse.

When I first moved to France, I was really gung-ho about doing everything like a native.  I shopped uniquely at the marché (never a supermarket!  That would be treason!) swinging my little net bag (your rarely see these anymore and that's a sad thing), and practicing my poor French with the vendors.  It was one of the best immersion experiences you could get outside of a classroom.
Oh little net bag, how I miss ye.  Although I don't miss people seeing what I've purchased.

That attitude lasted for years, probably a a couple of decades.  By the time I got married and had a couple of franco-american kids, I figured I'd assimilated as much as I was ever going to, and could start being my bad American self, which meant (among other things) buying American products without hiding them from public view.  It wasn't the taco shells that were going to betray my origins anyway; it was more likely that my less-than-svelte morphology and wild curly hair were going to scream AMERICAN as soon as I walked out my door.

You can tell an integrated expat by how they just don't give a damn anymore about passing for Parisian.  It's like we've come full day I was all about the little blue and white striped marinière; flash forward 20 years and now I just pull on my big old college sweatshirt.  Seriously, I'm never going to fool anyone into thinking I'm French (unless I take up smoking and wearing fur, and even then...).

 Avoid wearing this with a beret, unless you want to look like a mime.

So it was without one ounce of guilt or skulking about that I went  to check out the new mall SoOuest.  Which means SoWest.  What a stupid name.  This reminds me of a really-poorly named soup you can find at Picard* called SoSoup.  What genius brander came up with that name?  "Hmmm.  This soup is really....soup.  No!  It's more than soup.  It's SO SOUP!"

Anyway, SoOuest.  That doesn't mean it's like a "western-themed mall" by the way.  It just means it is situated in Levallois, which is a suburb in the (you guessed it) western part of the Paris region. 

SoOuest houses one of the new Marks and Spencers, a department store that had been banished from France about 10 years ago due to declining sales but I suspect it was because they asked their French employees to actually work and that was against union rules so rather than try and negotiate this**  the Brits pulled out of the French market.  But now they are back HALLELUJAH so I took the girls out there and it was like a little slice of heaven.

SoOuest has an anglo-saxon feel to it.  It's light and airy--there's a glass ceiling which gives you the impression you are in a lovely greenhouse--and all the employees have been trained to be nice and friendly.   For a moment I thought I was back in the USA until we needed to go to the toilet and of course there was only one set of toilets on one floor of the mall, situated at the complete opposite end of where we were.  Now that's just crazy because you often go to the mall with small children who always need to pee RIGHT NOW and the French are just setting themselves up here for children relieving themselves in the fountains, greenery, corner spaces, etc.  

 Don't complain, SoOuest, when people start using your potted plants as urinals. 

We were thrilled to see a number of American and British offerings amongst the food purveyors.  We chose Pret-A-Manger which despite its name is English (we like to go there when we go to London).  I fed the three of us for 30 euros, a bargain here.  The girls enjoyed these muffins, and I had a slice of carrot cake with my sandwich.  Carrot cake is something that freaks the French out in the same way that pumpkin pie or zucchini bread does, so you just can't pass it up when you see it for sale.

 Big muffins nicely served on a silver tray by really friendly people

Then it was on to Marks and Spencers where I descended into the food hall and decided I wanted to take up residence there.  They bring the food over on the earliest Eurostar (a freight one, not the one people ride in) and everything is just like it is in the UK down to the takeway curries and oddly-flavored crisps.

 I bow down to your anglo-greatness.  And your cinnamon pecan rolls.

We stocked up on American-style cakes, breads, crackers, and mexican food and I can't wait to go back.  It's not too far from us--we live on the western side of Paris, or should I say the SoWest side of Paris so it's a quick trip when we get tired of French food.

Which really doesn't happen that often.After all, there's a billion things you can do with horsemeat.
Wow.  I thought you could only find horsemeat in frozen lasagne.  But no, at SoOuest you can buy it freshly ground.  Neigh!

*Purveryor of horsemeat  frozen foods.

**See the recent brouhaha with Titan tires.

mercredi 16 janvier 2013

Monoprix and the flow of food items.

I love pita bread. I average 1 pita bread/day, either as an embracer for sandwich fixings, a base for low-cal pizza, or--my personal favorite--pita chips. (Cut up a pita into quadrants, separate the layers, spray with PAM and bake 8 minutes until crispy. Serve with salsa and 4% crème fraîche. It's my standard starter course).

But a crisis has occurred at Monoprix. There is no longer any pita to be found on the shelves. At first I thought it was an inventory snafu; I was sure that during a future trip to the store, I'd find my flatbread in its usual spot stocked between the brioche and the pain au lait. But still no pita when I returned a week later! Maybe they had moved the little round bread to a special head-of-aisle display; maybe there was some kind of "Highlight of the Foods of the Mediterreanean" promotion going on? On my third trip--three weeks into my quest--I asked the fellow stocking the breads: "What's going on with the pita?" I inquired. "The what?" "The pita. You know, that circular pocket bread that is usually placed here on your shelves" "No idea. I am The Responsible for Harry's," he answered. (Harry's is an ersatz-American line of what the French think sandwich bread looks like.)

Six weeks later, and I have now been to every Monoprix within walking distance of home and work. Pita has become an obsession. My colleagues, eager for the Pita Update, greet me with "Find any yet?" each morning. "The pita problem persists," I scowl as I put away my lunch in the office fridge. (A lunch lacking in sandwich for obvious reasons.) I mull over possible reasons for the pita shortage. "Maybe it is a boycott. Maybe it is France's response to the crisis in Syria?" I asked a friend. "But pita is Greek, or at least common to ALL mediterreanean countries. You still should be able to find it, despite the Syrian situation," he countered. Hmmm. Pita is not being used as a political pawn, I guess.

Withdrawal was setting in. I had to take desperate measures. I ventured into the Franprix, another supermarket I detest. Not only is the food bad quality, but the market itself is filthy. The only redeeming quality of a Franprix is that it sometimes carries odd, off-the-beaten-track foods. Food no Monoprix shopper would want.

Yes, they had pita. Not a genuine pita, mind you (this one is manufactured in a Paris suburb rather than in the Mediterreanean basin) but a pita nonetheless.

This pita incident is not an isolated one.  Among the many things that drive me crazy about Monoprix is their Food Item Inventory Control Master Plan To Make Me Nuts.  Items that in a normal world aren't rare, or even seasonal...yet they still can't get a handle on keeping them on the shelf at all times.   It is not uncommon to go to the baking aisle and be unable to find something as mundane as vanilla extract.  (In fact, vanilla extract seems to fly off the shelf at Monoprix at an alarming rate.  I've taking to stocking up on it.  That's a sad statement.)  Same thing with something as run-of-the-mill as diet 7up. Diet 7up!  It's not like it's a rare vodka imported from Russia that is only available during the holiday season!  Who sells out of Diet 7up for weeks at a time?  Monoprix, that's who.

Guess what else they can't manage to restock?
 Kidney beans.  Not available because they just aren't in season at this time of year, or so they'd like us to believe.

See that vast empty space next to the chickpeas?  In a NORMAL store, that space would be occupied by kidney beans.  But not at Monoprix.  Kidney beans are now the rare food item, which, once sold, can never be replenished.  No chili tonight, my friends.

They didn't even have the courtesy to put up their "UNAVAILABLE DUE TO CRISIS IN KIDNEY BEAN KINGDOM" sign,  (Here it is indicating something gone wrong in green bean land.)

Don't believe that "momentarily out of stock" bit featured on the sign.  If this is anything like the pita crisis, we won't be seeing green beans until summer.

dimanche 13 janvier 2013

Bonne Année

How thoughtful of my local supermarket to position the alcohol breathalyzer tests next to the New Year's Eve party supplies.  That's what I call one-stop shopping!