My first Saturday shopping in Paris I took the metro to the Batignolles 'bio' market - a pretty standard open-air market, but all organic (biologic).
Paris markets are always fun, there are so many vendors and people, and a lot more for sale than just vegetables - clothes, shoes, jewelry, soap, etc., etc. You never know what you'll find.
Here's the day's high point - between buying and asking questions, I spoke to at least six or seven vendors, and no one spoke English to me. Not one word - I asked in French and they answered in French. That's huge - it means that when I spoke, they understood, and I sounded like I knew what I was saying.
Shopping in Paris markets is usually cheaper than in the stores, but the prices at this one were off the chart, I had to be really careful with what I bought. I ended up with a mango, an enormous head of lettuce, a cauliflower, some green beans, a bottle of milk, and a small carton of fromage blanc de campagne - white country cheese - a kind of lumpy cottage cheese that I absolutely love.
The mango was my inevitable "impulse" purchase. I remember what I paid for it in euros, but would rather not disclose the amount, it was something Insane. A teenager with an enormous chef's knife was carrying a mango wrapped in a kitchen towel around the stall, offering slices. I couldn't take a sample, but the orange color was so vibrant that it glowed, and the people who took a piece looked universally pleased. So I selected a mango from the pile and called it my day's indulgence. (This particular stand allowed buyers to select their own produce, but that's not always the case.)
The mango rested comfortably on the counter for a few days and was then moved to the refrigerator. The original delay was because it wasn't quite ripe, but then came another problem.
I couldn't peel it.
The first thing I'm going to do when I get home to the US is to take a shower (my Paris apartment only has a tub), but the second is to put a serrated peeler in my suitcase and forget about it. I can't believe this has happened again.
I have a peeler that I bought in Milan, and a peeler that I bought in Florence, and now I have a serrated peeler that I bought in France. Except that it was made in Germany.
Something I'd call a 'y' peeler was hanging on the side of the microwave in the apartment, and I tried it out on a kiwi. The thing didn't peel, it wobbled and hacked and gouged. The kiwi looked like I'd hit it with a sledgehammer.
I didn't want to buy another peeler, I really didn't. With that said, I rather wanted to eat the mango without mangling it.
The next morning I made my way to G. Detou on the rue Tiquetonne, a short walk away. I had two goals - to check out this incredibly crowded, tiny little store full of spices and mustards and sardines and cake pans, and to see if I could find some unsweetened chocolate to nibble. French people don't bake at home, that's why god made bakers and bakeries, so it's hard to find baking ingredients. Even a box of pancake mix is too exotic to be stocked at a standard grocery store.
The rue Tiquetonne (2nd arr.) is near the rue Montmartre, the start of an interesting Paris shopping district. I glanced up the street and recognized a kitchenware shop I'd wandered through before. I didn't want to buy yet another peeler, but - you know the rest.
I found a 'y' peeler that looked identical to the one in the apartment, and was trying to find another version when a clerk approached. I don't have the vocabulary to buy kitchen equipment, and I hadn't prepared for this in advance.
I asked for 'something like this', holding up the peeler, 'but like this' and moved my fingers in a straight line. the clerk nodded and walked down the aisle. She handed me a straight peeler. 'Yes, like this, but with - teeth?' - that was the only word I could think of to describe a serrated peeler. 'Avec les dents', with teeth. I said that I wanted to use it on kiwi.
She nodded again, turned to another shelf, and handed me a serrated
peeler, with a swiveling blade. She said it was made for kiwi and
tomatoes, and took very thin slices.
I said yes, and thank you, and then paused. I wanted to know something else. I asked what was the word in French for the blade? I had said 'with teeth', but I asked the clerk 'what do you say?'
She replied 'avec les dents' - with teeth.
It cost 8.65 euros, probably close to twelve dollars, I don't want to do the math. (The dollar has recovered recently, but at the time it was in the tank.)
I stuffed the peeler into my bag and continued on.
I had a great time exploring G. Detou, and ultimately bought a bag of pâte de cacao en calets, 500 grams worth. The little chocolate drops had a slight bloom on them, and I was concerned at first because the bag was so cheap - I know, the peeler was too expensive, now the chocolate was too cheap, people are strange - but they're excellent, it's very good chocolate.
The next morning I retrieved the peeler and tested it on a kiwi. It didn't look as though it would work at all, it was too wiggly. Score one for German engineering, it was perfect. It shaved micro-thin slices off the kiwi without destroying the rest, and was easy to use on the mango.
The mango was excellent - not the absolute best I've ever had, but very very good. One oddity - the peel had a strange, flowery, almost soapy scent. I learned fast to remove every scrap of peel, to eliminate the perfume. Fortunately, this was easy work for a German swivel peeler with teeth!
Our guest contributor Beth lives part time in France where she immerses herself in French culture and explores new adventures.
Paris luxury food shops - where the Parisians shop
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