No, I haven’t gone all Domesday Prepper on ya all! I like to accommodate blog requests and recently someone asked about the various differences with baking and other supplies here in France. Firstly, before I start on my essential supplies in my British bunker – I should point out that France is a first world country and you can pretty much get anything you want out here. If you can’t, you’ll find someone who knows where you can, a supermarket will have a foreign/Brit section, a nifty website that will deliver or an English shop within your area. There are two near here that I know of – one in the Manche and one in the Mayenne – across the border into the Pays De Loire.
Plus take no notice of the food police that frequent themselves on the English-speaking forums here in France. Every now and then some shouty (normally female – true story) member will tell someone off for asking where the local McDonald’s is or what do people reckon of the new Indian restaurant? Yes they go right off into one so they do. They’ll accuse you of not integrating, that France has the best cuisine in the world and why an earth would you want to eat a burger? They also yell “go home” (yes one actually said that!) and why do you want to insist on creating British cuisine?
Now, let us just address a few of the food police’s concerns here. Firstly, my son gets at least 3 snap chat messages from his French friends, containing various McDonald pictures, a week. They are, and I quote from Master Normandy, “obsessed with it”. And I totally get why they are – young and adults alike. If you’ve been out for the day and haven’t clocked into a resto (restaurant) before 12.45pm you are unlikely to get fed. Fact. Even the most professional France immigrant gets caught out when they haven’t clock watched or as I affectionately say “turned into a lunchtime pumpkin”. The bell rings in my village at 12pm just in case you’ve forgotten to down tools for lunch. Like pizza take-aways, lunchtime and the time of it, is non negotiable. Even the Gilet Jaunes aren’t going to add this to their list of complaints.
Add hungry kids into the equation and McDonald’s is the perfect solution. Same applies for in the evening. If you rock on up to a town before 7pm then you can be guaranteed to get fed here. Let us not forget, the French also love a bit of Buffalo Grill (opens at 6pm) the American style burger (with padded booths) joint. So, Angry Food Police of Normandy, I put it to you that you are actually far less ‘integrated’ than you believe yourself to be. Oh and by the way, the ones that were shouting about McDonald’s and eating French cuisine hardly looked like they were benefiting from their self-righteous indignation of the Big Mac. They were rather overweight and probably drunk a little too much. So yeah, jog on!
I always find it baffling why anyone actually gives a toss what other’s do. Like really – why do you even care?! If you would like to read more about my character assignations of people on forums – you can read it here The Trouble With French Forums.
Not only that, French cuisine may have been quite something in the 1970s, but those days are gone. Yes, you can get some super home cooked fare – that is their thing. Simple dishes made incredibly well. However, there isn’t much variety going on and you’d have to go to big cities to get the type of world cuisine you would expect in most towns across the UK. Yes, they have nice cheeses but I can get all of those in any local Sainsbury’s and the British cheese which are outstanding. I can also get halloumi with ease but not here.
Do you know what the staple French street dish is i.e if you’re at a vide grenier (car boot), carnival, open air event? It’s a sausage. Yarp, a giant sausage in a baguette with chips. The queue for this is by far the biggest. If someone where to ask me what the national dish of France was – I would say this would be it. Sausage and chips.
So what are my staples? Well, I don’t like their syrup for the kids. It comes in tins and is incredibly sugary (although there are versions with out). You add water and it’s just foul. Squash here is already made up – so my top must have is blackcurrant and orange double strength squash.
I do like tea (although I also like the poncey herbal ones in my quest to be thin) so I have a little stash of Yorkshire Teabags. Although it’s currently huge as my lovely friend bought me back a massive bag of them. You’ll find if you live here in Normandy, people do go back and forth and there’s always someone who can bring you something back.
I like my stir in sauces. The cheap ones (actually all my bunker goods are cheap stuff from Aldi) like 35pm for hoisin, sweet and sour etc. These are just my easy go to, mid week meals with rice for the kids. Quick and easy. You can get sweet and sour and Korma etc here but not a wide variety and a bit dearer.
I like to get some different oils like sesame although if I looked at the oil section long enough am sure I could find it or rapeseed oil never seen that. Please correct me if I’m wrong I’d love to hear from you all on this.
I also stock up on regal ice colours – again selection not as good, normally pastel colours and more pricey. But again, there is a baking website in France that can deliver all those for you. So yes, I tend to buy too much of these and they then go out of date. Like I did for my royal icing. Whoopsie.
Absolutely bring Royal Icing – they have normal icing sugar but not seen this. Also mixed dried fruit, sultanas, glace cherries, cake boards, boxes – all cheaper in UK. With regard to the mixed dried fruit they don’t do bags like that. Also, I’d stock up on your favourite sprinkles – they do have lots here as well but there may be some that you prefer in the UK.
I like to make flapjacks when I can be bothered so I have a stash of golden syrup and black treacle. I’ve not seen dark brown sugar so I have that as well.
Packet stuffing if you like that, bread sauce, apple sauce, tartare sauce, cranberry – your little condiments like mango chutney, poppadoms, naan (haven’t seen those here in a France supermarket) hoisin sauce and Worcester sauce for adding to your cooking. It’s those types of sauces eg oriental that there isn’t a huge selection of but, again, there is a site that delivers. All links are below.
There is also a facebook group Baking In France and if you’re a mum you could join Mums Space France – they will always tell you what flour you need or any cooking related enquiry. Facebook groups really are a god send – there will always be someone that can give you the answer. Self raising flour – being gateaux and plain is the one without gateaux! Some people prefer bringing flour over. I don’t bake enough now to warrant it.
Believe it or not it’s hard to get proper double/whipping cream. You can try to whip up the cream (good luck with that) in the red cartons but it’s not the same aka it’s a bit runny! So not great for all your Victoria Spongers. Some people use mascarpone with some icing sugar added to it or you can just become French and use squirty cream. Never would I have thought I’d be using this stuff with some puddings but yarp needs must we are a squirty cream family!
Well that was pretty short for me! I have a whole lot of social media work to be getting on with. Don’t forget – I manage social media accounts here in Normandy and across France – get me! You can read more on that under the heading “Our Business Life” – well it’s mine but the blog refers to Our and you know…
I hope you have found this useful and please feel free to share your websites and must haves!
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French Cake Supply Website – just google french keyworks for cake, delivery, decoration for others