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Produit du Monde 16/11/2009

Posted by brendan in La Vie en Paris.
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Sur la Rue du Mont Cenis

Produce is bought at either Les Halles de Montmartre or a smaller store on Rue du Mont Cenis, the latter winning my favor by being owned by a very nice Chinese couple. There’s nothing particularly exotic to be found unless you’re thrilled by an assortment of dried mushrooms, but the assortment of imports is cause for pause.

It had never occurred to me that I would find Sunkist oranges and grapefruits or Pink Lady apples from Chile so widely available throughout Paris. However the bananas are from Guadeloupe, Martinique, and occasionally Ghana. The clementines are grown in Spain and the Thai rice in Mali. The variety seems the same but there’s a subtle sense of displacement seeing the origins of produce differ from San Francisco.

Certain staples I take for granted have suddenly become prized commodities. A small quantity of walnuts will set you back €10-€15, cashews and pecans €6 or €7. I’ve managed to find reasonably priced packets of peanuts at the local Monoprix, although they often originate from Argentina– I would have expected shipments from Africa. I had no idea that Argentina was a peanut producer, nor did I ever expect to see them fulfill an entire city’s supply of popcorn.

Celery is expensive, due in no small part to the habit of including the inedible roughage crowning each bulb, but bok choy is cheap; this encouraged me to peer around corners and atop shelves for miso paste. When I discovered my Chinese grocers stocked various sesame and chili oils, instant noodles, and even imported drinks, I found nothing but disappointment. They asked if I was looking for something in particular and I explained my quest. Shaking their heads they told me that miso is such a specialty item only restaurant importers would carry it.

Only now have I realized what an impact living along the Pacific Rim has had on my cooking. Miso paste isn’t just a staple of the few soups I make but also every stir-fry sauce. There’s a small international section in Monoprix that carries a couple Kikkoman sauces but they’re crap. The local biologique market Naturalia has umeboshi and even miso bouillon, but not the real deal.

Japanais en France

Half-lost one evening I turned a corner and did a double-take. A Japanese store, their modernist window displays filled with recognizable products, only blocks from my house. Despite having no money on me I walked inside and interrupted the proprietors’ television viewing. Upon questioning I explained I was searching for miso and a woman helpfully showed me various sacks of dehydrated soup. Oh no, I want paste. Paste?!? In Paris, you want miso paste? You’ll never find miso paste here.



1. Andrea Ruero - 16/11/2009

I feel as though we should send you a care package. So far the contents would include: Miso Paste, a variety of nuts, and an apartment. Anything else?

2. blaark - 16/11/2009

As my last date was pretty much a bust I guess I’m still in the market for a West-African bride… I mean, if there’s room in the apartment between the miso and the walnuts…

3. erica - 16/11/2009

date???? was she a princess??? does your mother know about this???

4. blaark - 16/11/2009

You obviously haven’t been checking out my pictures on Flickr. It wasn’t much of a date and she, Claudia, clearly wasn’t viewing it as such… Not a princess, just a girl that worked at Cafe d’Albert who’s moved to Rome as of Sunday…

If my mom looked at my pictures then yeah, she knows… She’s not said anything…

5. erica - 16/11/2009

she’s not african…and she looks a wee young, old man

6. blaark - 16/11/2009

True, not African but rather charming regardless… And really, she looks young? It’s very hard to tell here– I’m actually still a little unclear on her age… I figure if someone speaks three languages and has already lived abroad they’re older than me…

7. erica - 16/11/2009

i think that you can pretty much expect that any European you meet is going to speak at least seven languages–four of them fluently–and be really well traveled. the latter applies to Australians too, but they are obnoxious so it’s not as impressive.

8. blaark - 16/11/2009

Then I’ll be feeling mighty young out here, and stupid… Agreed about Australians, tho– they’ll never be superior to me…

9. erica - 16/11/2009

by the way…we were sorta chatting in real time for a minute there. awwwwwwww. miss ya–please, hold the shitty reply that will make me regret saying something nice

10. blaark - 16/11/2009

You mean like asking why you’re wasting Monday morning chatting with me in the comments instead of owning the town?

11. erica - 16/11/2009

Hey man…I’m owning the Zoo right now. And yes, back to work. xo

12. blaark - 16/11/2009

Fuck yeah, nothing like taking the company’s time for your own… You just better hope Jessamine doesn’t bother reading this, tho…

13. Pete Brook - 17/11/2009

No miso paste – bummer. But they must do a mean seafood soup with crusty bread? How’s the cheeses too?

You’re not getting any care package from me.

Oh, and in answer to your last question … everything is working fine, but I guess you’d got that because you’ve posted many items since.

And, my mum and dad are really intrigued by the visage of the description of the Brendan I offered. I laugh in anticipation of you sitting down with them.

14. blaark - 17/11/2009

I’m sure that the restaurants have amazing food– miso soup and all– but the affordability factor has prevented me from exploring the culinary delights as of yet… The cheese, let me tell you about the cheese… I can get 350g of generic Monoprix Coulommiers for under €2 and it kicks the shit out of most expensive cheese back in the states… And fresh baguettes every day? Yeah…

Thanks for not sending me a care package… I think that I’ll be rather rich with gifts when Andrea sends me my apartment, miso, nuts and possibly the West African bride…

Meeting your parents is intriguing to me, although I fear the task of living up to whatever impression you’ve concocted… I guess we’ll know soon enough…

15. Alanababa - 22/11/2009

That’s too bad about the miso paste, I just bought some at the Asian market near my house, and apparently there are several kinds, red, yellow, and brown. BUT, I would take great cheese and a fresh baguette over miso any day. Sounds like you’re having fun, thanks for keeping us in the loop. O’yah and you may get a visit from Dylan and I this spring, so your gonna need that apartment for us to crash in 🙂

16. blaark - 24/11/2009

Gastronomic crisis has been temporarily averted courtesy of Beth’s boyfriend and the international post… However I will need to find an alternative before too long– can’t keep feeding the USPS just to keep me in the soup…

There’s no need to restrict yourself in life… Have great cheese, fresh baguette and miso everyday. Red miso, for me…

Spring? I’m excited by the prospect of friendly and familiar faces but I’m still sleeping on the floor so, I’ll have to get to work on that… You know, if you guys had bothered moving to Spain you could be putting me up– that’s a much better exchange…

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