Visions of sauteed greens danced in my head, as they usually do, upon awakening this morning. It could only mean one thing, Tom and Julie must be craving the same thing! Looks like we’re having garlic white wine sauteed trees, grass, and hilltops for dinner. Last night, I was able to pin down a plan for the day which was to go something like this: wake up, Tom had a doctor’s appointment, which is a party which I was not invited to. During this time I was free to walk, run, CC ski, snowshoe, look for good prices for emu fur online, clean out my fingernails with a Brillo pad, or go to town and get the groceries for dinner as this was the only time today I was going to be able to. With options like that, what else can a girl do but take the bus to Chamonix, throwing her garbage by the wayside as she walks sideways down the street.
I documented my little journey for you so you can see what a French shopping experience is like for a girl as Savoy as myself. The many treks to the grocery store, my entire time here thus far, and of course, as I keep in touch with my community back in the State-ues of Liberty, have all taught me one valuable lesson: Expect the Unexpected. It’s a lesson I relearn every time I walk out the door. Sometimes my walks and treks conclude in a boiling hot sauna-like experience where I wonder if I have hit the stage of my life including my own personal tropical vacations, and other days I have lost three of my favorite appendages to frost bite. Feel free to keep sending sunshine, because I prefer the roasting days to having limbs scattered about the French mountains.
Every week, I make a rough outline of what I will be making for Tom and Julie and I try to get Sherlock Holmes-esque and find out who will be coming for dinner. I also scrawl out all the little messages and memos I don’t want to forget, which is sometimes how to say something I am looking for in French, and sometimes a spark that ignited in my head that I don’t want to go out before it’s time to light the evening fire. This is what my list looks like when I am done:
You can see I should have stuck to cleaning my nails with the Brillo pad. After writing a cookbook, I either walk to L’Argentiere, the next town, to the nice, cozy, friendly grocery store (UMarche) or I take the bus to Chamonix for fresh air and a bustling city’s worth of culture. I have yet to fully explore because I am usually on a race against time, but it’s good for me to practice using the buses, and I just done my hair into a beehive and wanted to show it off, so I decided to head that way today.
The trash cans where I try to avoid messing up my hair while slam dunking the garbage in and organizing the recycling.
So handy to have the trash by the bus stop. Then you can dump all of the dead bodies before fleeing town.
The buses do not stop at every stop unless someone inside hits
the button to request a stop, or is standing outside one of these, looking like a freeze pop.
I felt sort of like I should not be taking pictures on the bus, but this what the only non-skiier on a bus to Chamonix sees. The bus comes approximately every ten minutes. But for planning purposes, you have to give yourself about a half hour plus to get to the city on time.
And here we arrive….you can see there are tons of people out and about this morning, at 10. They get a really late start around here because most folks are skiing all day.
This is the equivalent of the Boston Common, and you can see the clear difference in pace. The good news is, my habit of breaking out into spontaneous power walking doesn’t cause me to trip over all the people on their cellphones who aren’t paying attention.
Here is the produce section at the grocery store, the outside of which I did not take a picture of; it’s a large hotel building with all sorts of stores, hair-cutting establishments, souvenirs and candy shops –something like the Colony Mill Marketplace in Keene, but with a giant mountain hotel above it and huge ski slopes in the horizon everywhere you turn your head to look.
You choose all your fruits and vegetables and then head to the scale, where you weigh and tag your own stuff. This is a great vocabulary lesson, and I often mix things up like potatoes and cabbage, despite the pictures on the buttons, and they give me funny looks. I just tell them I come from Scotland, and they all give me understanding, sympathetic looks. Apparently, that is the right thing to say!
This vegetable tagging is probably a really fun activity for grandmothers, people who like to push other people’s buttons, and children. I think it is brilliant of the French as it saves a lot of time at the checkout line. I can’t wait until they open the deli counter like this so we can slice and weigh our own meats and cheeses. Lord knows, I love me a good Ham hock (whatever a Ham hock is) slice when the security camera is not on.
Today, I ordered at the deli counter successfully and she even gave me cooking instructions, to which I cocked my head to the side and had to use the handy phrase I have never employed so much in my life prior to this trip, (except that week I spent with a martian) …”Huh?” A British man behind me explained everything and we all walked away with meat in our pockets and smiles on our faces. I have to get a paper towel to wipe my keyboard from the barf just now, when I just pictured myself as a comic strip girl with raw chicken in my pocket. Thankfully, this is only a comic strip and none of that was real.
These are my favorite two aisles, the coffee aisle, and the organic foods section. Note: the organic foods section is 25% baby food, 35% flour, and 60% juice. What do they expect us hippie tree-huggers, rain-dancers to eat? I want organic food and I have teeth!
I asked the woman at the register if I could take her picture, or if she would pose with me for a happy duo-photo.
However, she was primarily focused on getting my money and practicing her French, rather than becoming America’s Next Top Model. So, I just left it at that and asked for my receipt. Some people wouldn’t know fame if it hit them in the head.
The grocery store has 4-5 carts for the entire store and most people do their shopping for the present day, rather than the normal American BJ’s wholesale shoppers who stock up for all three coming Apocalypses and the meltdown of human society. Instead of carts, people load up hand baskets and these really dorky hand wagon cart basket inventions that you PULL through the store like some Fisher Price wagon. I’ve even seen cool people pulling them, but I think they are dweeby and only for the likes of Steve Irkel. I love that at the register they frown upon those who do not bring their own bags. They make them wear a dunce cap and do their rendition of a Barney song in French just to make them feel stupid. Since I don’t want to become a celebrity by showing off my dance moves, I bring my own bags. Here is what my Prada and Gucci shopping bags look like when they are full.
As I said in the beginning of this, the grocery store is about expecting the unexpected. You pretty much can count on the fact that they won’t have any greens, and even fewer organic ones. As for the other fruits, vegetables and items that will be in stock, it’s always a toss up. That is why my artistically crafted menu often becomes kindling in the fire as I have to revise my plan based on what I can find. Like tonight, despite my craving for greens….all we’re going to have is bread and soda water. Cause I just took a two hour nap on my stomach and lost feeling in both of my arms.
I did not anticipate that coming here would cause me to miss my food processor and juicer so much. I’ve been squeezing carrots with my fingers and it’s just not the same. I also did not expect that today I would get absolutely nothing done except that grocery trip, and writing this blog, because Julie was skiing until dusk. And I did not expect that this blog would have nothing to do with expecting the unexpected, and rather ended up as a narrative of the grocery store.
I suppose you will be expecting a picture of the finished product…
Easily and effortlessly yours,
— Emily —