Tag Archives: vegetables

Gender Bender

One thing that constantly trips up Anglophones when they’re trying to speak French is the gender of nouns. Virtually all nouns in English are neuter (with the obvious exception of those referring to boys, girls, men, and women) so it’s all new. Moreover, there seems to be no particular logic.

Well you’re right.  There’s no way to reason out whether a particular noun is masculine or feminine.   You just have to memorize them; in time, you will get used to hearing words in context and the right article will come off your tongue naturally.

But in the mean time, life must be lived and the correct articles (le or la) and numbers (un or une) should be used.  (I heard a story once about a guy so frightened about making a mistake that he always asked for two, rather than say une when the correct choice was un. )  And don’t get your panties in a twist if the shopkeeper corrects you. Trust me, you will never forget it! Finally, if you are ordering items at the boulangerie or marche, remember to use your thumb, not your index finger, to indicate one, and your thumb and index finger to indicate two, and so on. For quick reference, here’s a cheat sheet for some of the things you may be buying daily.

Fruits

These are just a few of the fruits you’ll find in a French market.   I’ve limited the list because I’ve never heard of anyone buying one cherry or one grape.  Thankfully, the article for multiples is les, no matter whether it’s masculine or feminine. 

English French
Apple La pomme
Apricot L’abricot (masculine)
Banana La banane
Grapefruit Le pamplemousse
Lemon Le citron
Lime Le citron vert
Melon Le melon
Orange L’orange (feminine)
Peach La pêche
Pear La poire
Pineapple L’ananas (masculine)
Plum La prune
Pomegranate La grenade
Watermelon La pastèque

 

Vegetables

English French
Artichoke L’artichaut (masculine)
Avocado L’avocat (masculine)
Broccoli Le broccoli
Cabbage Le chou
Cauliflower Le chou-fleur
Celery Le céleri
Cucumber Le concombre
Eggplant L’aubergine (feminine)
Onion L’oignon (masculine)
Pepper Le poivron
Tomato La tomate

For other fruits and vegetables, you will want to tell the vendor that you want a bunch (une botte), a handful (une poignée,) a small box (une barquette),  a dozen (une douzaine), or just the amount in grams or kilos (for example, cent grammes or un demi-kilo).

Baked Goods

No translations here because these items are almost all uniquely French.

Le beignet
La brioche
La baguette
Le chausson aux pommes
Le croissant
L’éclair (masculine)
Le gâteau
Le macaron
La meringue
Le millefeuille
Le pain
Le pain au chocolat
Le pain aux raisins
La religieuse
La tarte

Advertisement

French Markets: What’s in Season?

by Ann Mah

Today’s post is republished with permission from the blog of Ann Mah, an author and journalist based in Paris. She has written for Conde Nast Traveler, the International Herald Tribune and many other publications. Publishers Weekly called her recently published first novel, Kitchen Chinese, ” a great start for a writer of much promise.”

At a recent dinner party, somewhere between the cheese course and dessert, that age old question arose again. 

Are there no seasons for fruits and vegetables anymore?

“When I was young, we didn’t have any green salad during the winter,” said the woman across from me, poking her fork disapprovingly at a leaf of mâche. “Only endive. For the whole winter.”

Granted, she was d’un certain âge, but even so, her youth was probably only 40 years ago. (Side note: if I’ve misjudged her age, I really hope she isn’t reading this right now.)

The rest of the table erupted into a diatribe against raspberries in January and artichokes in November. I kept quiet for fear of revealing my dirty secret: I really have no idea when different fruits and vegetables should appear.

Happily, it appears others share my cluelessness. Why else would Le Parisien print an article dedicated to fresh produce and its seasons? Thanks to their informative article, here’s a breakdown of what to look for:

April
New in season: rhubarb, blackberries, asparagus, chard, spinach, radishes, lettuces
Still in season: oranges, beets, carrots, celery, cabbage, endive, potatoes

May 
New in season: strawberries, eggplants, cucumbers, turnips, cauliflower  
Still in season: rhubarb, blackberries, asparagus, beets, carrots, celery, cabbage, spinach, radishes, potatoes, lettuce

June 
New in season: apricots, cherries, currants, raspberries, melons, apples, tomatoes, courgettes, fennel, beans leeks, peas, peppers
Still in season: rhubarb, blackberries, asparagus, beets, carrots, celery, cabbage, cauliflower, spinach, lettuce, turnips, onions, potatoes, radishes

And the rest of the year…
Summer
Continue to enjoy strawberries, the last cherries and apricots. It’s also still the high season for nectarines, peaches, plums, and pears. Grapes arrive. Courgettes, tomatoes, melons, beans, peppers, broccoli, and all lettuces.

Fall 
Enjoy grapes until October. Also, raspberries, blackberries, and blueberries. Most of the summer vegetables can be found until October.

Winter
Apples and pears are everywhere. Oranges and clementines arrive in November. We can cook cabbages, carrots, potatoes and leeks. Don’t forget endive.

Today is Market Day

by Erin Chupp

Reposted with permission from Lyon Eats, a terrific blog designed to help Americans in Lyon, France find the foods they love.   While the selection of products is apparently wider in Paris, you still may get some ideas from this blog about where to find those special treats in your Parisian neighborhood.

What better way to fully experience the joys of French life, engulfing all of your senses, than with a trip to the neighborhood market? Feel the uneven cobblestones beneath your feet, knocking you off a balanced path from time to time. See the brilliant array of colors in the fruits and vegetables lined across the tables. Listen to the women gossip and barter over the sounds of a muffled accordion player nearby. Pick up a carrot or turnip and touch the dusty layer of dirt on the outer skin of the freshly dug vegetable.  [Editor’s Note:  Touch the merchandise only if you have the vendor’s permission!] Taste the sweetness of a perfectly ripened tomato the vendor sliced for sampling.

Most neighborhoods have at least one or more weekly open-air markets, often located in a town square or open parking lot and taking place in the morning. Many covered markets are open all day long. Your neighbors can point you in the right direction, or just follow the ladies making their pilgrimage with woven baskets and rolling carts.

Arrive at the market with an open and adventurous spirit. Market shopping can inspire you to cook new dishes and try new tastes. Be spontaneous. Don’t arrive with list in hand. Let that day’s promotions or soldes write your menu. Shopping mid-week often means fewer people and lower prices. You could also try going later in the day for the possibility of easier bargaining on the food needing to be eaten that day.


(c) K. Masson

No matter when you go to these marchés découverts, it is appreciated if you try to speak the language. Keep in mind basic shopping etiquette: “Bonjour,” “s’il vous plait,” “merci,” and “au revoir” said with a smile go a long way. As far as asking for different foods, manage what you can. There are little helpful hints peeking out of each section, as the name and price of all the items are often etched in white on small chalkboards.

Tip: one kilo = 2.2 pounds

Depending on the season, you will find tables covered in melons and berries or apples and pumpkins, and always an array of flowers, bursting with magnificent colors. Most often, quantities are sold by weight in kilos or grams. Good deals can be found by buying by the plateau, or dish that is pre-loaded with ripe produce.

There is no doubt the food you come home with will be the freshest available. Each producer is an expert on his goods. You will receive one-on-one assistance picking the perfect pêche or pomme. There will not be a need to spend time reading the labels at a supermarket or hypermarket. Which is better, ‘free range organic,’ ‘natural,’ or ‘grass-fed’ meat? The perk of the market experience is the ability to simply ask the farmer how their animals live.

If you become a repeat shopper, even if you only return once a week, forming a friendship with the producteur can get you the freshest pick and ideas on how to prepare an item with which you are unfamiliar. Instead of fingering through all the fruits, poking and prodding each one, tell the producer on what day you would like to eat your choice melon, and most will gladly pick out one perfect for the occasion. And when there are more than 350 different French cheeses, you are going to want an expert behind the table; someone who learned the trade from his father, who learned it from his father.

Tip: for farm-fresh eggs, save a cardboard container from your last supermarket trip. If not, there is a good chance you will be given your dozen in a brown paper bag, playing a juggling game to see how many whole eggs you have once you reach the kitchen.

There is much more to a market than fruits and veggies, though. Selections vary at each location, but you can often find fresh fish, meats, cheeses, honey and fruit juices. Let us not forget about the non-edibles too! Beautiful scarves, dainty handbags, shoes, jewelry, clothes and handmade crafts are also for sale; although on sale is more like it—a necklace at a department store might cost you 25 euros, whereas you might find the same one at the market for just five.

By shopping at a market, you might also lose a few things as well. In the popular book French Women Don’t Get Fat, Mireille Guiliano reveals her ideas on the mysteries behind French eating habits, weight gain and “the secret of eating for pleasure.” One of Madame Guiliano’s recommendations for keeping a French figure is fresh ingredients found at your local market. She also says the way a French woman walks everywhere provides great exercise. While you are walking back and forth from the market, adding a rolling cart for a little resistance, you have combined a small workout with grocery shopping.

Whether it is picking up a mélange of dried fruit as an afternoon snack, instead of McDo, picking up supplies for a scrumptious picnic, or checking out the ripest produce for a delicious dinner, the open-air market is a true French advantage. Get out in the fresh air; take a stroll and find some fresh food.

Weekly Schedule for Parisian Food Markets

Guest author Erin Chupp is an American freelance writer and photographer. Copyright 2009. No reproductions of any part without prior written permission.

Making Sense of the Supermarket: Part II, The Produce Section

This is the second in a series of posts about the typical French supermarket, a place where I spent many hours during my first months in France.  Today, we tackle the produce section.

Let’s start with the biggest difference between the French supermarket and the one you left back home;  in many supermarkets in France, you have to weigh and tag your own fruits and vegetables.  If you can’t find a scale anywhere, you are off the hook.  Many Monoprix stores, for example, now have a scale at the register just like you’d find in an American supermarket.  But if there’s a scale, here’s what you do.

Put your bag of fruits and veggies on the scale.

On the screen above the scale, select “fruits” or “legumes” (vegetables). 

You’ll then come up to menu, usually a bunch of squares with pictures of different fruits or veggies, and a code number.  If you’ve got broccoli, punch the square marked “broccoli” (same in French as in English!), and the machine will spit out a self adhesive tag.  Stick it on your bag of broccoli and you are good to go.

For apples, oranges, pears, and any other item of which there are multiple varieties, look for the square identifying the variety you’ve selected.  If you’re not sure, look back at the sign over the produce bin where you got the item in the first place.  Usually, there is a code (something like “305”).  Take a look again at those squares appearing on the scale screen and look for the square with that code.

Some items are sold by the piece (la pièce), the bunch (la botte) or the unit ( a l’unité) and thus do not have to be weighed.  Such items might include a head of lettuce, a bunch of parsley, or a large piece of fruit like a mango. You also do not have to weigh anything that is prebagged such as prewashed lettuce, plastic bags of apples, or string bags of onions.  Anything that needs to be weighed will be marked vrac (bulk) or with the price per kilogram (kg).

Bio is the French term for organic.  Many supermarkets offer both conventional and bio produce.  As in the U.S. bio items are often more expensive, but not always.