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Food / Wine

Those little French things that we all miss

By No author
01/05/2010

As a French expatriate in the UK, I am going through the tough experiment of withdrawal symptoms. Forget the cliché about French people missing baguettes, cheese and wine, we can always manage to find these products albeit not that easily if you are looking for quality. Indeed, what I miss today is not what I thought I would…

 

   Food


I’m sure you’ve noticed that when French people meet they always talk about food. Eating is such a French passion that no French person takes food lightly. So how could a French person survive in the Kingdom of beans and Marmite? At least all the stereotypes that we are fed at school were stuck in my mind: English people eat sweet mint jelly everyday, they boil their meat and cook it for hours, they have tea with their meal, they put ketchup on everything even their cereals, they have peanut butter and jam sandwiches...The list is endless. So how could I possibly survive in London, I wondered before moving in. Naturally, I quickly realised that I had underestimated Britons. London over the last 20 years, has become one of the great culinary centres of the world. With some of the best chefs. So why did I feel that I was missing certain things which are broadly available in France.? Or was it simply the shopping experience which simply wasn't the same?

 

-    Coquillettes

Coquillettes
Coquillettes


Coquillettes is a true institution in France. Children's favourite pasta, coquillettes are students' predilection dish and even grown-ups eat them with pleasure. And yet British people have never heard of them and it’s practically impossible to find any in the supermarkets. Don’t be surprised next time you see pasta inFrench people's luggage- as far as I’m concerned, I always bring some when I come back from France and even ask my friends to do so. I can’t even imagine growing up without coquillettes. English children have all my sincere sympathy.

 

-    Chocapic and chocolate-filled cereals

Chocapic
Chocapic


On top of this, English children also seem to have missed out on a necessary French element of children's breakfast: chocolate-filled cereal. My French flatmate desperately misses Chocapic, a brand of chocolate cereal every French person used to eat when they were children. And, apparently even big children still appreciate it…

 

Maille
Maille

  

 

 

-    "Cornichons"

 

Don’t even dare to compare French “cornichons” with English pickles. In the UK, pickles are big, sweet and soft. In other words, tasteless. On the contrary, in France, they are small, sour and crunchy. The most famous French brand uses as catch phrase “only Maille fits me” (“Il n’y a que Maille qui m’aille”). Believe me or not, but this turned out to be true!

 

-    Yoghurts

Mamie Nova
Mamie Nova


Everybody in France has yoghurts in his fridge. And how could we do without it? French people generally eat some as a snack during the day and at the end of almost every meals. I haven't seen anything like this in Britain! This must explain why the choice is so reduced. La Laitière, Mamie Nova, Gervais, why didn’t you reach London? In a supermarket, yoghurt sections are extremely depressing for a French expatriate.
However this is nothing compared with the meat section.

 

-    Meat

Charal
Charal


When I arrived in London, I didn’t eat meat for weeks. Not because of the ghost of mad-cow disease but because of its appearance itself and the lack of choice. I just couldn’t trust it. Eventually, the increasing possibility of anemia spurred me into buying, but this was not without reservation...Clearly meat is not as good as in France. French people, enjoy your beautiful beefsteaks and sirloins and flanks and duck filets… because you can’t find any of these in a British supermarket. What is easily available to every French person has to be sought out in luxury butchers and sold at a price definitely not attainable for the average English family. Charal is cruelly missing here. Happily there are some good French brasseries where you could savour it with a glass of red wine and even some baguette to wipe your béarnaise sauce. But, when you have to cook it yourself, be brave: if English people can , so can you.

 

-    Mustard

moutarde de Dijon
moutarde de Dijon

Don’t panic there is some “moutarde de Dijon” in the supermarkets, however most of the time you will find American mustard… which clearly doesn’t taste like mustard.

 

 Picard
Picard

 

 

-     Picard

 

Picard is a French brand which sells frozen food of the highest quality. So handy! Forget it in the UK and get busy cooking if you want to eat properly.  
 

 

 

Daily Life

 

Bakery
Bakery

-   The bakery around the corner

Wherever you are in France, there is always at least one bakery around the corner. When you move into a place, it's not rare for the first thing your neighbour to tell you is where to get the best baguette. This is information of the highest importance. In the UK of course there's no bakery except if you are lucky enough to live near a French one. And this does not always deliver what you would expect, certainly not at the prices you are used to. However desperate you are, don't even think of picking up one of the supermarkets' versions of our baguette. These are soggy and often stale and bare no resemblance whatsoever to their namesake.

 

café
café

 

-   The café around the corner

 

Britons don't have the culture of cafés. In France, cafés are a major aspect of socialising. French people could spend hours drinking an espresso in a small cup and discussing with friends. Cafés "à la française" are rare in the UK and spending hours in a Starbucks may be slightly weird and boring. There are, of course, still pubs but having a long and profound conversation or even gossiping there is difficult.

 

-   Good transports

Tube
Tube

Many French people have been living in London for years and sometimes it's even hard to spot them. However in the tube you can recognise them easily. For a French person and especially a Parisian, waiting more than 3 minutes to get a tube is scandalous. On the contrary in London, everybody seems to be  patient. For instance, one morning a man told me with a big smile that the next circle line train would come within 16 minutes... I'm pretty sure that would have provoked a riot in France!

In the same way, British people always sit still when the train stops between two stations or when the traffic gets suspended. French people, in contrast, tap their feet angrily and curse out loud. Is that due to the mythical British composure or to the high quality of the Metro's content? I don't know. However, I do know that, in Paris, there's no need of a "service update" every ten minutes because the métro generally works.

 

 

-   Velib'

Velib'
Velib'

Velib' has changed the life of Parisians. They will miss it in London. Be patient, a project of hire bicycles is being considered.

Find out more 

 

 

- The doctor visiting patients at home

In France when you are too sick, you can ask your GP to come to your place. This is particularly common as far as children are concerned. Don't dare to suggest it to a British GP, he would not understand and the situation would be so awkward...

 
 
And what about you? What do you miss in the UK?


As far as I'm concerned I have to be totally honest. There are some things I'm glad to find here and I can't find in France. Topshop, Urban Outfiters, true vintage shops, Boots; peanut butter, crumpets, crackers, shortbreads, 24 hours buses, taxis everywhere, films released months earlier ... remind me that I'm lucky to live here and, if I was about to leave Englang, some things would miss me.

London
London

COMMENTS:

07/12/2016 - agoodyear1941 said :

Where can I find lovely jambon superier as sold in French supermarkets, especially on deli aisles.?I lived in France for many years came home but missed the French life. Bought a small maison secondaire and escape when I can throughout the year. I live near Portsmouth so I can take a ferry to St Malo regularly. Back to lovely ham, where is it in UK?

26/12/2015 - hcollier said :

You CAN find cornichons in England .. but at a price. Which is why I always return from France with 8-10 big jars. And jambon persillé? Fromage de tête? (which you can buy in Morrison's, but pretty well nowhere else). You will have a job finding andouillettes at your local butcher. Let us not even get started on French supermarket staples such as fresh crab, bulots, langoustines, fresh lobster, clams ... all of which you CAN find in England, usually after a major hunt.

14/02/2015 - clangunn2 said :

I now live in the UK (but not in London) and when I go back to France the food stuff I go for are :
crevettes (taille 30/40),
boudin blanc
jambon
carpaccio
the variety of ice creams in the shops
and saucisses-lentilles.

But here I like my baked beans, salad cream, crumpets, Yorkshire pudding, hunters chicken, steak and kidney pies and my haggis.

05/09/2014 - zenryl91 said :

For the people saying Nero and Costa café are just as good, it is not about the coffee it is about the atmosphere. Lets be honest those café are the equivalent of McDonald

28/09/2013 - annick_eisele said :

@boucettayasmina Chocapics are not like Cocopops! They're like Chocos, another kind of cereals you cannot normally find in the UK.

However, I was lucky to get Chocapics in a one pound shop a month ago.

17/08/2013 - boucettayasmina said :

This article seems to me a bit of advertising. I will follow suit then, and remind the writer for example that instead of Chocapics he can find Cocopops in England. And I don´t agree regarding coffee as you can find a really good tasty one in Costa or Nero. But of course maybe not as good as the french one...

17/06/2013 - mathurin_69fr said :

For all that I have found the perfect Place :

www.frenchclick.co.uk

They have every thing that you can need .

03/05/2013 - annakolya said :

I must admit I am overwhelmed by the choice of products you get in French supermarkets. They are just so much bigger than in the UK! Something that startled me a few years back was the lack of shower creams compared to the massive shampoo and hair care aisle! In France the choice is just wow. I can definitely feel that things are changing in the best possible way in the UK. I've lived here for a while now and realised that it's not so much the food that I miss now as things that punctuate the year like the galette des rois, offering lily of the valleys on the first of may... I also terribly miss the quality of French magazines and again the variety. I miss culture being in your face, quality TV shows, intellectual debates. I know they bore some people but I do miss the odd passionate discussion. I miss French book shops and the 'poche' format. I used to miss the fact that people did not really invite each other round for a fully cooked dinner party but thanks to TV shows such as come dine with me this is changing.

07/04/2013 - Ldittmar said :

Does anyone know where I can get Pascal Caffet chocotartiné (pâte à tartiner croustiillante) in London? A friend's mom bring some over and I fell in love!

18/03/2013 - Albatresse said :

15 years ago, English supermarkets were awful. Now and since few years now there has been more choice. Thanks to delis and Polish I guess. Meat has been an ongoing problem for me and Brits will never understand ( reference to one feedback you have). Prices are not helping, farmer markets taking the piss- so I am eating more fish ( that I find good and cheaper overall) and cooking more stews or overpriced meat. I miss my French black pudding ( not like the british awful one), concoillotte and mont d'or ( but I don't mind as I am trying to lose weight) and yes you can find mont d'or in waitrose during season (£12 the small portion!). I miss bouchée a la Reine but apparently they can be found in frozen area, les pommes dauphine ( apparently you can find them) - but on the other hand England gave me so much more ( the fact as well there are so many cultures). I taught my family new ingredients ( sweet potato for example was unknown in France a couple of years ago). I love Brit cuisine , always loved it: from the roast, the stews, the ham and eggs ( yes cooked in water!), the beans, Life is good. But when the economy is similar in Spain, I will move there. Can't wait to go to a food market the way I like them- cheap, a big variety, people shouting, no queuing to get 3 leaves of spinach , meat all over the place and so many stalls you can't even see it through- this is maybe what I missed the most- les marches!!!! ( Spain or France - food from the producer).

05/11/2012 - jpw0912 said :

We are Francophiles and visit France at least once a year, having kept a caravan in the Charente ( where there are too many Brits, hence our reason for moving it to Wales ). We love French food, especially from Normandy, and bring back copious tins of different types of Cassoulet for emergency meals back here. We also miss Petit Beurre biscuits. However, we think English regional food is fantastic. You can go just a few miles and find culinary specialities of the area that are different, whereas you have to go a few hundred miles to find something different in France - not everyone likes bland haricot beans with everything in the Charente, or worse still thick, fatty, salt pork and French Sauerkrout in Alsace - the most disgusting meal I have ever eaten in my life. We never hear of the dreadful French dishes, the French keep quiet about them. Also the French Supermarket fruit and vegetables in many areas are beginning to taste like and resemble the specimens in ours. Enjoy the best of both French and British, but don't knock the Brits until you have travelled and sampled extensively outside London and the South of England.

25/09/2012 - Juliejungen said :

Les morilles et la cancoillote..... framche-comte quand tu nous tiens!!

05/09/2012 - ejg.ellis said :

I've just returned from a few days in France. I found the French very polite and friendly.
Although I'm happy to live in England, I don't think that most English are as polite and friendly -- sorry.

19/03/2012 - smccormick said :

I actually don't miss anything. I recently read in a magazine that 65% of French people would prefer to be British than French. I would too. The Christmas spirit is better in the U.K so much more jovial. And I can easily gossip in a pub. French people are so rude and poncy to start a conversation. I hate going back to France and Nantes! Just hate it!

24/07/2011 - robertlangan said :

Hello,
I am an English man who loves France and French culture. There is no doubt that France in culinary terms is superior to Britain. However I think you are being unfair about the meat and bakery produce. All major British supermarkets sell Duck and sirloin steaks for heaven's sake...why they even have kangaroo and ostrich. Take your point about the bakeries but you can buy excellent French bread(I mean baked with 100% French flour)in Sainsburys and Tesco, Waitrose and the like.
Yes there is something unique about a French cafe but there are some fantastic pubs where there art of conversation still flourishes, just you might have to try a little harder to find them for all the dreadful chains that are taking over the British high street.
Vive la France et vive la difference!

07/06/2011 - lahtaccathal said :

wheres the best and cheapest place to get good french cheese in London?

28/02/2011 - francoiset65 said :

il est possible de trouver le chocolat le poulain a londres mais a quel prix presque £10. et puis c'est dans le quartier francais south kensington. j'aimerai le trouver dans le nord de londres aussi. moi qui suis bretone ce qui me manque ce sont les bonnes crepes, le pain noir. impossible de trouver cela ici. sinon il y a aussi frenchclick.co.uk ils sont sympa et offre pas mal de chose bien francaise.

07/12/2010 - boudi2912 said :

I am lucky to have a fab little french deli in my town, they even place orders for me of any products I like whether it's for french biscuits or those boudins blanc saussages I love so much! It's Chez Julien Delicatessen in Surbiton, definitely worth going to if you are in the area of Kinston!

01/06/2010 - clairemc said :

Hihihi wait until you move back to France, you will soon find out that there are all those things you miss in London.

It seems to be the dilema/charm when living in a new country. You miss so many little things from your homeland but before you realise it you have acquired a liking for peanut butter and christmas mince pies. Then you move on to a new country and suddenly you miss little things from home and things from someplace else. And this you might say is the wonderful fall into endless travel... (from an Australian who has spent many years in France, London, South Africa and Switzerland)

22/03/2010 - jpderian said :

You can find all these product at chanteroy-online.co.uk
or at the chanteroy deli
233a Wimbledon Park Road
London SW18 5RJ
020 8874 1446

Happy shopping !!!!!!!!!!!!!

18/02/2010 - dffswift said :

Where can I buy Viandox in London?! Not so sure about the Chocapic though. Berk!!

04/01/2010 - alki2saveh20 said :

Try Mayonnaise Delouis Fils from Waitrose. A lot like Benedicta. Try frenchclick.co.uk for French goodies and charcuterie :)

19/12/2009 - karine.thornhill said :

Au moins, ceux qui habitent à Londres ont plus de choix que ceux qui, comme moi, habitent en "province".(Nottingham). Plus on monte vers le Nord, moins nous avons la posssibilité de trouver des produits français et encore moins de bons restaurants. Quand je vais en France, notre voiture est pleine à craquer apres nos visites aux marchés régionaux at arret obligatoires à la cave à fromages à Calais et dernier passage au supermarché

29/11/2009 - jdoe83fr said :

clairemasonUK: i found some petit beurre, even petit ecolier in a small shop at belsize park called "hill food and wine". on the opposite street of the station. I actually found other french biscuits like this, and also Croustilles from belin. but sadly (for me), they don't have curlys.

17/11/2009 - clairemasonuk said :

Does anyone know if I can buy Le Petit Beurre biscuits anywhere in London?

CM

01/06/2009 - magnificent_moosettina said :

Shame on you "buying " your mayonnaise. How difficlut is it to take a couple of fresh free range yolks, slowly blend in Maille moutade de Dijon, and dribble in some good sunflower oil while beating rapidly with a fork? Add a touch of white pepper and a few drops of frsh lemon juice et voila!
Mind you I still have not quite managed to get that yummy fresh mayonnaise served in Brittany and Normandy restaurants with langoustines that is so delicious it can be eaten on its own with a fresh baguette or flute.
But I have found lesieur mayonnaise in Waitrose in a squeezy upside down plastic bottle- My home made is better but in an emergency.......!
And French bread made in france and baked here still is not as good as the local "boulangerie du quartier"!

01/02/2009 - poppyforer said :

please please please can anyone tell me where I can buy Danette? I have such cravings I feel ill!

15/12/2008 - michelle.lee.robinson said :

I have to agree about the bread - it is so different to France, but I have to disagree with you about some of the other thngs. You can get french mustard in most supermarkets, wherever you live in the UK (although not all will stock Maille). You can also get good quality steaks and duck breasts in most supermarkets. When I lived in France, I never bought Charal as you can't see the meat through the packaging - I like to see the meat I'm going to buy rather than buy it on trust. There's also an ever growing selection of yoghurts in supermarkets. It's not all bad here - though I'd still move back to France in a flash (though being British, I'd need to take tea, bacon and cheddar with me!).

12/12/2008 - sophiecharro said :

Having recently moved back to Paris after 15 years in London...i am French and actually desperately missing M&S at Christmas!! all the lovely goodies, food, candles, presies, decorations - nothing like this in Paris! to be honest, i think Christmas is better in England...
However, i can drink nice noisettes in gorgeous cafes, eat yummy baguette daily and enjoying patisseries, curlys, prince d'or, petit Lu au chocolat and nice fresh meat...
Merry Noel!

11/12/2008 - patriciaconnell said :

N'oublions pas les pailles d'or, la bonne galette des rois,...

05/12/2008 - gdt2fr said :

Et les cafes ou l on peut lire, ecrire, rever sans avoir a rester debout a supporter les hurlements des voisins emeches. Et les boulangeries patisseries ou les parfums du pain et des viennoiseries encore chauds et les rangees d eclaires au chocolat vous font saliver a peine la porte franchie. Et les marches ou chacun y va de il est frais mon poisson, allez ma petite dame un beau lapin pour ce dimanche et on y va 2 euros la botte de carotte arrachee de ce matin. Et dire que je suis reduit a me fournir chez Tesco, Sainsbury's ou Waitrose.

05/12/2008 - brousse_e said :

les rillettes,le cassoulet,une bonne choucroute,les Danette,les Pyrénéens,les Choco Prince,les Caramabar...bref tout ce qui est bien bon pour la santé mais qui sont tellement "yummy Frenchy"

05/12/2008 - kathybayoud said :

Bonjour,
J'aurai tendance a dire que rien ne me manque .... mais lorsque je rentre en France, j'adore aller prendre mon expresso avec mon sandwich jambon beurre dans un bar sur la place du village, manger une bonne entrecote frite dans un excellent restaurant et grignoter du fromage. Ne vivant pas a Londres, ce qui me manque le plus est: le choix: j'ai du refaire toute la décoration de ma maison et j'ai trouvé que le choix des papiers peinds, des salles de bain, des rideaux, la déco, était ringard, viellot, pauvre et démodé. Maintenant les crudités me manquent ... et le gout des fruits juteux et des légumes gouteux me font défaut ...
Et en France, le bon thé et le beurre salé me manque ....

05/12/2008 - simon_dev2003 said :

don't forget french horsemeat, snails, froglegs and foie gras pate (savagely stuffing geese) covering it all in a thick garlic sauce and then claiming to be the greatest food nation in the world

05/12/2008 - sylvie said :

Ce qui me manque sont les "Curly", les "Marronsuis" et les "Apericubes", sans oublier les bons éclairs au café, les chouquettes et les Paris-Brest!!!
Et avant de me dire qu’on peut trouver tout cela à Londres, je vous rappellerai que tous les Français en G.B. n’habitent pas à Londres!!!
;o)

04/12/2008 - elisabeth_morice said :

Poulain chocolate (in bars and in powder) anytime! I bring stashes back with me everytime we go to France.
Same with cassoulet and Breton cider.
And tisane au tilleul!
and of course Gigondas wine (you can get it in the UK but at such a ridiculous price!)

04/12/2008 - sandcol said :

Waitrose does have indeed nice produce. Shame I left West Ealing and no longer have one of these supermarkets nearby. However, I still have never found proper French mayonnaise here. I can not stand English or American one. Where do you find some?? Cornichons and mustard are luckily available.
And the other thing... "biscuits aperitif"... I know there is no "aperitif" culture here so I usually bring back a stock of Curly, mozzarella coated peanuts back to London :) The thing I really appreciate here is all the food available for vegetarians and labeled accordingly. I know... not usual to find French veggies. Believe it or not I started drinking wine when I moved to England as I felt I had to drink alcohol to take part in the British social life. And I do enjoy it!

04/12/2008 - s.pollock-hill said :

You are obviously not visiting the right supermarkets!
Try Waitrose for Maille mustard and cornichons. They even stock Bonne Maman Madelaines beloved of Marcel Proust in "A la recherche du temps perdu", and fine range of french james especially apricot!
And have you not found your favourite local pub, and wondeful local beer (not cervoise tiede a l'Asterix).
"Having a long profound conversation there is difficult", yes if you find a noisy pub at peak time. Make a point of trying our country pubs, with a blazing fire, old fashioned antique confortable country chairs, home cooked food- "gastropub" sans escargots, I grant you!. Some of the wit and repartee is amazing at the bar at times, not just about English football and cricket or politics!
English tea tastes totally different to the insipid French imitations!
I miss the pommes frites most of all although i notice many French cafe's are using frozen reconstituted ones! Thank heavens for the Relais de Venise in marylebone Lane to remind you how good French "pommes frites" should taste! Toute craquantes savoureuses et plein du gout de l'huile de soleil.

04/12/2008 - nashjulie9 said :

Oh man, this is SSSSSSSSSSSSSSSoooooooo true. Ah que la France me manque...... Oh que j'aime L'Angleterre avec tous ses defauts.

Can't wait to read your next article...

04/12/2008 - blandine.mathey said :

Agree ! i would add 'la cervelle d'agneau' (sheep brain) and 'les bouchees a la reine' (translated approximately as puff pastries). If there's only 'Maille qui t'ailles', you'll find 'les cornichons' in Morrisons. Bon Appetit !

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