Come shop with me
THE GOOD SHOP:Is it possible to shop like a Parisien in an Irish supermarket? TRISH DESEINEsays yes, it is. Here are her tips for healthier shopping . . . and eating
HEY MIGHT DREAM of pottering around farmers’ markets, but for now most Irish shoppers are doomed to push huge trolleys through supermarket aisles, swamped in choice, bewildered by labels and as excited by new cooking shows and books as a toddler on pre-ban blue Smarties. No wonder they end up reaching for something grey and familiar from the freezer cabinet.
In France, where every town has a market and the foundations of a meal made from a slice of good ham and a good tomato are as strong as those of heady gastronomy, people are more confident about how they shop, cook and eat. And they are healthier.
During the decades it might take our food culture to mature to something similar, how can we learn from the country with Europe’s best practice in food?
Sorry if this sounds a tad life-coachy, but getting a bit of what France has is not all about education or learning to bone a boeuf, it’s mostly an attitude we can all adopt, a sense of occasion, a sort of laid-back, grown-up understanding of what is good for us and pleasurable, in every sense, not just our physical health.
We could start by paying less attention to the media’s insatiable “look! new recipes!” machine and allow ourselves to be a bit less stimulated, even, dare I say it, bored, by our food sometimes? We could admit that Limerick will never be St Remy de Provence and stop blindly copying the food from our holiday destinations. And we could cook more simply in our kitchens, including when we entertain, and then let chefs make us the fancier stuff in their restaurants.
When friends ask me for practical help in rewiring their cooking, I don’t give them my “twist” on coq au vin, I give them my shopping routine. After 25 years in Paris, it’s definitely repetitive, arguably mundane, but I believe these are both good things.
This plan helps boost their confidence to do things their own way, change habits if need be, and ease them into cooking nearly every day, like many French people do.
I may be lucky to buy food in my St Germain-en-Laye market, but it is the principles behind that shop that matter. They can work just as well in any Irish supermarket.
SENSIBLE FOOD PURCHASING
Do a weekly shop. Unless you’re a retired banker on a guilt trip, it is impractical to romanticise ye olde labour-intensive days of yore. Supermarket convenience, no matter how soaked in evil you consider it to be, is progress. Use it.
Swap breakfast cereals, sodas, processed food, cakes, sweets and crisps for the best quality, fresh, Irish where possible, ingredients, buying enough for six or seven days at a time. If it helps, imagine you are Charlotte Gainsbourg shopping in le Marche d’Aligre in Paris. Anything to muffle the call of the prawn cocktail crisps and Magnums.