Supermarket Finds in France—What to Bring Home

Loot from France, circa 1996, before Internet shopping made it easy to find great French things. These days, only a handful of these items aren't available stateside.

I’m headed to France in about three weeks for a quick one-week trip to learn more about Bordeaux wines. As always, I’ll take an extra suitcase so I can bring home some of my favorite things.

You might be surprised at what generally fills my homeward-bound suitcase. No one item costs more than a couple euros, but the very fact that they’re inexpensive makes them hard to find stateside. You see, you can easily find France’s fine wines, lovely linens, high-end foods, fantastic cookware, and perfumes and such stateside. Thanks to internet sources (like these folks at European Market), it really isn’t that hard to get good loot mailed to you.

However, most importers won’t bother with inexpensive items. And who can blame them? Imagine the bureaucracy of bringing in a food item. Would it really be worth it for anyone to sell a 75-cent jar of Dijon mustard over here?

Amora Dijon Mustard is great, but I equally appreciate the glass jars they come in. I use them all over the kitchen (Pictured: Vinaigrette, herbs on my counter, dried lavender).

So I bring an extra suitcase and some Ziplock bags. And while I’m in France, I save every copy of the Herald Tribune I read to use for packing. And then I head to the supermarket for some of my favorite things. Here are the top three:

1. Amora Mustard: This is one bold mustard, and one that you see everywhere in France. French women use it all the time. True, you can find it at Amazon, but they only sell the screw-cap version. I much prefer the little jars, which are topped with a pop-off plastic cap. Like American jelly-jars of years ago, these mustard jars can be used for so many things. I take them on picnics for wine glasses; I use them at breakfast for juice glasses. I stick herbs in them to keep on my counter. And they’re terrific storage vessels. How often do you have just a tidbit of something that you want to save? These babies are the perfect size, and the lids are reusable again and again.

Best of all, Amora mustard costs about 75 cents a jar.

It comes in a tube—with a star tip!




2. French Mayonnaise. You can find a jar of French mayo in American specialty shops, but frankly, you don’t want it in a jar. Tubes of French mayonnaise come complete with a star tip, so you can pipe mayo on your Oeufs Durs Mayonnaise. Plus, I love French mayo. It just tastes richer and better (though I must admit that Hellman’s is pretty darn good, too. I just wish it came in a tube with a star tip).

Badoit by SimonQ錫濛譙 via Flickr


3. Badoit. Yes, we can get some French mineral waters over here, but I have yet go see Badoit anywhere. I love this one—it’s a very softly sparkling water, with a vague mineral backdrop you can taste. It’s not only refreshing, it’s restorative. Whereas more forceful bubbles (like Perrier) make you feel full if you drink it with your meal, softly fizzy Badoit just makes you feel great.

I know it sounds silly to take up room in a suitcase with a bottle of this stuff, but I usually pack one or two—just to wean myself off of it once home. At the very least, try this great mineral water next time you go to France.

P.S.: If you DO bring home a bottle of Badoit, use it promptly. I once saved it for a “special occasion,” and it had gone flat beforehand. Boo-hoo.  Also, although the glass bottle is classier and prettier, if you’re going to schelp it, bring home the plastic bottles.

P.S.: I’d love to hear what other travelers bring home from France.

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2 comments to Supermarket Finds in France—What to Bring Home

  • Hi Wini: I just discovered your blog tonight. Love it, and the cookbook!
    I’m headed over to Aix in two weeks and yes, always carry an extra suitcase. I love the small yogurt jars: the brown ceramic ones. But these mustard ones are great …I will look for some!
    And, of course, lots of lavender soap.
    Look forward to reading more from you!!!

  • Wini

    Thank you Libby. YES! The lavender soap! Love it. And also I adore lavender honey from over there. Why, I wonder, is lavender honey from the US always clear and pourable, but lusciously opaque and spreadable from France? I adore the stuff. Can’t get enough.

    As for the soaps, I always buy some. But don’t make the same mistake I do. Last year I bought some, and saved them a little too long. Fragrance is now gone. Carpe diem! Use it while it’s perfume still sends you back to Provence! (You probably already know that…)

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