Jump to content
  • Welcome to the eG Forums, a service of the eGullet Society for Culinary Arts & Letters. The Society is a 501(c)3 not-for-profit organization dedicated to the advancement of the culinary arts. These advertising-free forums are provided free of charge through donations from Society members. Anyone may read the forums, but to post you must create a free account.

The Things They Carried (We carry really)


Recommended Posts

With apologies to Tim O'Brien, I'd like to start a thread on "The things they carried" on what those of us who cook and eat bicontinentally schlep back and forth. This parallels in some ways Lucy's thread on Expat substitutions.

I'm not sure this is of interest, but let me recount the stuff we bring in each direction. Mind you, things are quite different now than 20-30 years ago when you had to go to Bon Marché or Izraël for exotic items, now our Monoprix carries Illy coffee, Heinz catsup and nachos.

In any case, coming West-East we bring American/Jewish horseradish (the French raifort is quite different), Mueske’s Canadian bacon (despite Lucy and P’titpois’ advice), light (Kikkoman green label) soy sauce and Heinz Chili sauce.

Coming East-West we bring La Perruche raw sugar (available at Whole Foods, Zabars, etc, but at double the price), Richard (ditto at liquor stores), harissa and French/European dark chocolate (ditto again).

PS If you think this is déjà vu all over again, you’re correct; I posted then deleted this and in the process lost Lucy’s comment about PAM, Menton1’s about Misto and hathor’s about horseradish, was it?

John Talbott

blog John Talbott's Paris

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I'll add again that I ask for PAM, which comes in handy here and there in the kitchen. It was not available a couple of years ago and I haven't checked to see if it is available now. Now that you mention it, John, horseradish is now on my list because I still have yet to find the fresh root, anywhere. Apparently it takes over people's gardens so they don't want to grow it either.

Hey, what's Misto? Something I should be hankering after? :rolleyes:

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I'll add again that I ask for PAM, which comes in handy here and there in the kitchen.  It was not available a couple of years ago and I haven't checked to see if it is available now.  Now that you mention it, John, horseradish is now on my list because I still have yet to find the fresh root, anywhere.  Apparently it takes over people's gardens so they don't want to grow it either.

Hey, what's Misto?  Something I should be hankering after?  :rolleyes:

Well, menton1 said it's friendlier for the environment and with it one can use any oil, including high quality olive oil.

John Talbott

blog John Talbott's Paris

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Let me re-post this. PAM is pretty awful stuff. Chemicals, propellants, and the like. Highly flammable!! (Somehow I don't want to consume anything flammable).

The Misto sprayer is a stainless steel canister that you pump up with air yourself. You fill it with your favorite oil; (You can use the best French olive oil) The result is the same fine, minimal quantity of oil, but you can use great oil and get nothing else-- no chemicals, no propellants, and non-flammable. A terrific product. No need for that horrible PAM.

I don't know if they will ship overseas, but here is their website:

Misto Sprayer

Link to comment
Share on other sites

When I lived in France, I brought in umeboshi (Japanese pickled plums), my sister-in-law's homemade maple syrup, and jamon de jabugo (much cheaper in Spain). We also brought a large cellar of California wines. I also regularly had my husband bring salmon from Finland.

My Canadian friend in the 17th always asks me to bring her Canadian cheddar from Marks and Spencer. I feel strange bringing cheese into France :raz:

I plan to restock on tilleul next time I'm in France.

I've had several Mistos, and none of them ever lasted long without clogging up. I just went back to poured oil.

PS: I also brought in a 4 year supply of American plastic wrap (what Brits call "cling film") and aluminum foil. The European brands always seemed to disintegrate, or the boxes were so poorly designed that it was a struggle to tear pieces off.

Edited by Culinista (log)
Link to comment
Share on other sites

I've had several Mistos, and none of them ever lasted long without clogging up. I just went back to poured oil.

Ah yes, we have one of those - a horrified (horrified that I would ask for PAM) friend brought it to me and it clogged up within a couple of weeks. I think it may have been the grade of oil I was trying to use. I should probably clean it out and put some kind of neutral oil in it. Yes, propellants. It's not aerosol or anything, is it? It doesn't seem like it, because it doesn't spray like an aerosol. So much easier though to spray a pan instead of grease it when you have very little counterspace. The alcohol evaporates. I have this thing about greasing the pan, it was my job when I was little and I hate to do it.

We found good foil (ALBAN ALU brand heavy duty) but no luck on the plastic wrap.

We also bring Cheddar from NY home. Some things just can't be replaced. :smile:

What do I take home? Cheese. By the wheel. Lots of that. Baking chocolate. Wine. Less now than before, since I find people are happy with local wine and it doesn't make it worth the effort, really. The best wine experience is to come here and drink it.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Yes, I've heard that that Misto can clog, but it's only $10, and I've seen PAM sprayed into a stove top and ignite!! Do you want this type of oil spray to restiict the amount of oil used?

Friends in rance always ask us for Maple Syrup, and, of all things Sambucca, the Italian liqueur. It's true, even in Nice, so close to the Italian border, you just can't get Sambucca. Guess they want you to use Pastis...

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Yes, I've heard that that Misto can clog, but it's only $10, and I've seen PAM sprayed into a stove top and ignite!!  Do you want this type of oil spray to restiict the amount of oil used? 

Nope, I usually use the Pam to create a non-stick surface in the pan when baking cakes, that's all, but it's worth dispatching messengers coming from stateside with it.

Friends in rance always ask us for Maple Syrup, and, of all things Sambucca, the Italian liqueur.  It's true, even in Nice,  so close to the Italian border, you just can't get Sambucca.  Guess they want you to use Pastis...

Actually the first time I tasted Pastis I thought it was Sambucca!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

From France:

Decades ago, before all the meat scares, I used to buy an open terrine at the charcuterie in Orly, bring along a baguette or two to the airport and finish almost all of it before landing in the States. If any was left over upon landing, no one seemed to mind.

Cheese, lots of cheeses, particularly lait cru.

Artisanal Chocolates from Michel Chaudin.

Confit de fruits

Pate de fruits

Fresh pastry from Herme and others.

One time I brought home for my wife a tray of almond croissant from a bakery on the street where we regularly stayed. She loved those croissants. Unfortunately, while hot and crisp when purchased, they became cold, limp, soggy and crunched up in the traveling. Only a few could be rescued. Tant pis.

Pain poilane, though now one can get it fresh every Thursday in Boston, to be sure at thrice the price.

Unusual varieties of eau de vie.

Unusual soaps and olive oils.

For the kids (and for my own guilty pleasure) lots of French mass-produced puds in impermeable packaging: flans, trifles, mousse au chocolat et au marron, baba au rhum, fruit tarts, creme brulee, etc. For a low cost, the quality is high. None of these products have made it into the American market so it is one of the few things to escape the monotony of gourmand-globalization.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

We've already had an extensive thread on what to bring to the States to eat or give as presents; I was hoping this thread would be on products/stuff we use in cooking or our kitchens going each way.

American plastic wrap

Indeed, plus ziplock bags, Comet and pumice (but now I'm straying OT onto cleaning).

John Talbott

blog John Talbott's Paris

Link to comment
Share on other sites

ziplock bags
Maybe, but the French have these fabulous "Sacs de Glaçons" which make for terrrific shaped ice cubes, as well as a great convenience and uniformity. Nothing like that available in the US.
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Outbound Essentials: Indian Candy (hot-smoked salmon in strips); fresh whole wild spring salmon packed for travel; extra sharp (3 to 5 year age) Canadian cheddar cheese; ice wine.

Inbound Essentials: Women; white Bordeaux (especially white Graves). Happily, and coincidentally, Eric Asimov has an article on this very passion today. Accept no substitutes.

from the thinly veneered desk of:

Jamie Maw

Food Editor

Vancouver magazine

www.vancouvermagazine.com

Foodblog: In the Belly of the Feast - Eating BC

"Profumo profondo della mia carne"

Link to comment
Share on other sites

We bring from France to the States:

--Tins of Puget olive oil, sometimes two tins per trip. It's the best.

--Chocolate bars. For gifts from Monoprix - OR-- Pruneaux/Armagnac dark chocolate

--Herb de Provence from Monoprix.

--Bouquet Garni, for my stock, from the Monoprix.

--Aioli and Rouille jars.

--Moutarde-regular, Cassis, the green one...(tarragon?)

--French mayo (which has mustard in it)

--Lavender soaps and grapeseed oil soaps from the marche

--Almond bisquits; used to be from Hediard, now I find cheaper ones

--Noisettes- we don't get hazelnuts salted like that here. Delicious.

--Truffle oil

--Eau de vie, Pastis, Calvados, Armagnac, Marc de Bourgogne or wherever, Fine...

A ton more. Can't remember it all.

As far as bringing to our friends in France from the States:

--Dried Cranberries and Blueberries

--For some reason-Macademia Nuts from Hawaii, which one friend says she can't get

--California Zinfandel, usually Gundlach-Bundschu

--Hot Dogs and Potato Rolls from the Amish in Reading Terminal-we bring ice packs for one friend

Philly Francophiles

Link to comment
Share on other sites

This is not bicontinental, but across borders.

For a couple of years, I was living in Germany, but on the border between France and Germany. I could walk out of my house, hop on my local bus, and go into France to do my shopping (the bus made a quick loop into France and then headed back out into Germany). Alternatively, I could change from the bus to a tram, and go to a different French town for my shopping. I was always 'filling the gaps' from one country with products from the other.

From France:

Lipton citrus herbal tea (infusion agrumes)

Live basil plants (the type with smaller leaves)

Algerian red wine

Aioli in jars

Small dried white beans (forgotten the name: was it cocos?)

Ready-made brik wrappers

Buckwheat flour (ble de sarrasin)

Various types of pate and charcuterie

Peches de vigne if/when available :wub:

To France: (this is more limited, becasue it has always been short holidays, day trips, etc.)

German bread (German bread combined with French cheese and charcuterie is really combining the best of both worlds)

Such a relief to hear that I'm not the only one who wrestles with flimsy European plastic wrap/cling film in lousy packaging. I was beginning to think it was just me!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

One of the problems now in suggesting French products to bring over for the American kitchen is that the amount of what was once unavailable or expensive in the US, but common in France has diminished. The primary culprit has been Trader Joe's which offers different European cooking and varietal chocolates, truffle oil, not to mention frozen desserts and a range of other products. The commonest form of harissa can also now be found in the States.

In that regard is there any good mass-produced harissa in France, other than the internationally ubiquitous yellow and red packaged metal tube? I use it when I have to, but I would like something better.

Another product I used to bring over was fleur de sel, but now I found that too widely available here. In fact the best such salt IMHO is not the salt from Britanny or the Camargue which I have, but Kona deep ocean salt crystals from Hawaii.

I suspect that Trader Joe's nuts and dried fruits may be better and more adventuresome than what can be gotten in France, but perhaps that market too has changed for more variety.

Aioli is not something I find as often in the States so I should pick some of that as well as Monoprix mass-market spice blends.

Edited by VivreManger (log)
Link to comment
Share on other sites

You can buy professional-grade plastic film in 300m rolls at the Paris Supermarket, a Chinese 'hypermarché' (as they call themselves) on the ave d'Ivry, just down the street from Tang Frères. It's on the second floor, and costs about 6 euros for a very large roll. Mine lasts me at least a year.

I bring dried sour cherries back from Trader Joe's from the US to French friends (and myself) who adore them. I suspect they'll be more widely available here in the future. I also bring back California dried apricots, which are tangy and delicious, unlike the sweet Turkish ones (yes, I know, some people prefer them...but I don't.) Dried cranberries are more common here since Ocean Spray set up distribution channels in France.

The hazelnuts I buy in Paris are invariably rancid, no matter where I get them.

The excellent Italian ones, sold to professional in large tins, still elude me...they seem to be unavailable anywhere.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

This is not bicontinental, but across borders.

Such a relief to hear that I'm not the only one who wrestles with flimsy European plastic wrap/cling film in lousy packaging. I was beginning to think it was just me!

We ex-pats from the States (living in England) have the same problem. I finally found Lakeland products (they're on the Web) and the foil actually works!

While looking over the lists here, I'm beginning to think England has taken good ideas from here.. there.. and it's fairly easy to find a lot of the things I originally missed. There are Pam substitutes (Mistos are healthier), maple syrups, ice cube bags a la Francaise and fairly good clingy film at Sainsbury's.

That said, I'll be in Paris in a few weeks and thanks to all who listed some of their favorite, French products!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

In that regard is there any good mass-produced harissa in France, other than the internationally ubiquitous yellow and red packaged metal tube?  I use it when I have to, but I would like something better. 

You've got me thinking. I especially like the dry harissa that Magrebian restos serve; I have no idea where to get it (Izrael maybe) but oddly enough Google reveals that a California woman Kathy Fitzhenry of Juliet Mae Spices sells it in the US. I'll betcha ChefZadi knows where in Paris to get it.

John Talbott

blog John Talbott's Paris

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I suspect that Trader Joe's nuts and dried fruits may be better and more adventuresome than what can be gotten in France, but perhaps that market too has changed for more variety. 

...Dried cranberries are more common here since Ocean Spray set up distribution channels in France.

This year I have seen a whole lot of new dried fruits available from my normal spice vendors. I'm sure they're available everywhere since I saw them both in Provence and in Lyon. Dried melons, red berries like strawberries and raspberries, kiwis (didn't like those, they'd picked up some kind of odor), and some others.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

We've already had an extensive thread on what to bring to the States to eat or give as presents; I was hoping this thread would be on products/stuff we use in cooking or our kitchens going each way.
American plastic wrap

Indeed, plus ziplock bags, Comet and pumice (but now I'm straying OT onto cleaning).

I've been looking everywhere for the thread you mention and cannot find it - anyone have an idea where it is? Thanks much

*****

"Did you see what Julia Child did to that chicken?" ... Howard Borden on "Bob Newhart"

*****

Link to comment
Share on other sites

You've got me thinking.  I especially like the dry harissa that Magrebian restos serve; I have no idea where to get it (Izrael maybe) but oddly enough Google reveals that a California woman Kathy Fitzhenry of Juliet Mae Spices sells it in the US.  I'll betcha ChefZadi knows where in Paris to get it.

About a year ago at the San Francisco Ferry Terminal market I bought a dry harissa mix that proved excellent, though over-priced. I don't think it was Juliet Mae Spices, though. The packaging was different from what appeared on the website you offered. Are there any dry harissa mixes available in France? Of course the spices themselves are not that difficult to find and from time to time I have put together the combination. What was good about the mix I bought was that it recommended Meyers lemon as part of the olive oil - - red pepper mix.

Edited by VivreManger (log)
Link to comment
Share on other sites

We've already had an extensive thread on what to bring to the States to eat or give as presents; I was hoping this thread would be on products/stuff we use in cooking or our kitchens going each way.
American plastic wrap

Indeed, plus ziplock bags, Comet and pumice (but now I'm straying OT onto cleaning).

I've been looking everywhere for the thread you mention and cannot find it - anyone have an idea where it is? Thanks much

Here it is.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Things we take to Paris are decaffeinated tea bags and individual packets of Splenda. We return to FL with tins of foie gras and Huile de Noisette and olive oil by LeBlanc.

No need for Splenda anymore; they now have "Canderel" widely available all over France.

I remember not too long ago when they didn't even have diet soda, though...

Link to comment
Share on other sites

You've got me thinking.  I especially like the dry harissa that Magrebian restos serve; I have no idea where to get it (Izrael maybe)

Any North African shop or kosher grocery, especially in "ethnic" areas like marché d'Aligre or Barbès, will carry pungent garlicky harissa in glass jars, plastic tubs or even "en vrac", ladled into plastic bags from big buckets.

This harissa doesn't keep well. A thin film of olive oil on the surface of the harissa, and you can keep a small jar in the fridge for a couple of weeks.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

 Share

×
×
  • Create New...