What we are really loving about doing this Price Check series – more than forcing us to do comparison shops at every destination – is that it’s making us pay more attention to what’s on the shelves at supermarkets, rather than what we are buying, and is therefore helping us to understand what people are actually eating in the places we’re spending time in.
Ceret’s supermarkets have proven to be very revealing. Yes, the village is renowned for its Saturday morning market, which we’ll tell you more about in a few days, as well as a handful of excellent butchers and bakers. But it also boasts three very different supermarkets, each telling a very different story about its clients, and therefore the social and cultural make-up of the town — the Ceret shopping list can be an eclectic one!
In the heart of the centre ville is a small, budget-priced Netto supermarket, with little of anything of note and the lowest prices in town; on the outskirts of Ceret is an enormous InterMarche (ironically its website boasts that it’s noted for its convenient location!) with a huge array of products, while in between is our supermarket of choice, a medium-sized Carrefour-owned Champion supermarket.
Our Champion supermarket, like any French supermarket, has all those wonderful products that make it uniquely French that you get excited about when you haven’t been to an European supermarket in a while – the kind of products you don’t find in many supermarkets around the world, and the kind of products that got us excited about going shopping when Carrefour first came to Dubai.
What kinds of products am I talking about? Shelves and shelves, and in same cases row upon row, of fresh and packaged, French regional and local products – everything from bags of fresh escargot, Escargots de Bourgogne, Coquille St Jacques Recette Normandie, terrines, rillettes, lardons, jars of fish soup (Soup de Poisson, see below), cheese soufflés, blini, foie gras, a hundred other duck products, and endless counters of cheeses and sausages, and I could go on. Simply, all of the things we just love to drool over and then take home to devour.
Then there are the aisles that we find odd – considering we’re in France – including a long row of shelves of packaged manufactured desserts, from pomme tartin to profiteroles; several rows of frozen and ready-made meals, including everything from paellas (more varieties than I’ve seen in Spain!) to pastries, madeleines, quiches, and even toasted cheese and ham sandwiches (truly – that was a first for us!). Why odd? Because there seems to be a bakery/pastry shop on every corner in Ceret.
Then there’s the ‘ethnic’ and expat aisle, of which the English shelves are particularly revealing: Lea & Perrins Worcestershire Sauce, Colman’s Classic Mint Sauce, HP Sauce, Scott’s Porage Oats, Dorset Cereals, Branston Baked Beans, Wilkin & Son’s Orange Marmalade (twice the price of local marmalade), and more.
On the one hand these products demonstrate that the French have some of the most demanding and discerning palates in the world, which is exactly what we love about these people. On the other hand, the products also reveal that the French are just like everyone else on the planet: busy, tired, and after a long day, are happy to microwave a pre-packaged, low-grade, manufactured product containing unidentifiable ingredients, when they could just as easily (and more cheaply and enjoyably) cook the same thing at home if they made the time. That’s disappointing because it shows that the French food culture and lifestyle are changing – for the worse.
But what we hadn’t realised before is that French supermarkets are just as globalised as supermarkets the world over, with their Mexican Old El Paso taco kits and their Heinz tinned foods. Although I guess if we lived in Ceret we’d probably be pleased about that. Spice of life and all that.
What do you think? We’d love to hear your thoughts. How do you feel about the globalization of food culture?
|1.5 litre water||€0.32||£0.28||US$0.43|
|1 litre milk||€0.59||£0.52||US$0.80|
|Bottle of local wine||€3.50||£3.07||US$4.74|
|San Miguel beer||€0.98||£0.86||US$1.33|
|250 g Segafredo||€3.05||£2.67||US$4.13|
|Lipton’s tea 50 bags||€2.30||£2.02||US$3.12|
|1 kg sugar||€0.99||£0.87||US$1.34|
|Jar of cherry jam||€1.60||£1.40||US$2.17|
|1 loaf of bread||€0.60||£0.53||US$0.81|
|250g quality butter||€2.45||£2.15||US$3.32|
|200g Comté cheese||€3.20||£2.81||US$4.33|
|500 ml olive oil||€3.70||£3.24||US$5.01|
|1 dozen eggs||€3.69||£3.24||US$5.00|
|1 kilo tomatoes||€2.20||£1.93||US$2.98|
|1 kilo onions||€2.80||£2.46||US$3.79|
|1 kilo apples||€2.20||£1.93||US$2.98|
|250 g pistachios||€4.85||£4.25||US$6.57|
|630g jar Soup de Poisson||€6.90||£6.05||US$9.35|