What the French Know About Food: Buy Fresh

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In Paris, there’s a bakery on every corner offering buttery croissants, but residents are still slim enough to fit into elevators the size of coffins. What do the French know? This is the second of several posts on food and lifestyle in the city of lights. Read the first here.

Paris has supermarkets, and you can buy produce in them as in any U.S. store. But most people get their fruits and veggies from neighborhood open-air markets one or two days during the week year round.

These are not a few stalls of local farmers; we have our choice of hundreds of vendors. The variety far outstrips what you see in the local Monoprix or Franprix, and unlike most outdoor markets in the U.S., the prices are actually lower than the supermarkets.

Of course, just because it looks like a farmer’s market doesn’t mean it is; most of the produce comes from central distribution centers. (For a peek at these, check out the lovely movie, Paris, with Juliette Binoche.) Unless produce is labeled “AB” (for “agriculture bíologique” the equivalent to our “organic”), it is almost certainly raised with “traditional” methods.

But there’s much to be said for how these markets put produce–traditional or not–within easy reach of people in all of Paris’s neighborhoods. Whereas fruits and veggies are some of the priciest items on our grocery lists in the States, here we can fill our large sack for less than 13 Euros. Snack food items are much more expensive in France relative to these healthy options. (For a point of comparison, watch Food, Inc, which gets inside the U.S. diet.)

So there it is: veggies cheaper than sweets. One more Paris secret.

U.S. cities (especially the NYs and Chicagos), what would it take to get an affordable outdoor market for your residents?

 

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