petite anglaise

November 24, 2004

a nice bit of crumpet

Filed under: miam, missing blighty — petiteanglaise @ 3:35 pm

The 22nd of December 2001 was a black day for English expats in Paris: Marks and Spencer finally closed down their Paris Haussmann and Rivoli branches.

In a last desperate bid to stock up on crumpets, English breakfast tea and mature cheddar I braved the closing day 40%-off-sale hordes. Anarchy reigned. Protestors were making their anger felt by tearing the wrappers off triangle sandwiches in the food hall and scoffing them without paying. The clothes section looked like a jumble sale. Extra security guards had reportedly been taken on for the day to keep the peace.

Once the store closed, I began to fully comprehend what I had lost. Never again when feeling a bit low or homesick could I turn to English comfort foods like toasted teacakes and hot cross buns to munch in front of Eastenders. There were to be no more properly spiced chicken biryani ready meals. Crispy duck with pancakes, plum sauce and a side order of crispy seaweed was a thing of the past. (Parisian Chinese restaurants don’t seem to serve this, my favourite dish, more’s the pity.) Rice pudding, custard, cheddar and stilton were definitively off the menu. I would have to learn to recover from hangovers without the help of a bacon and tomato ketchup sandwich.

When I first moved to Paris, I started off terribly enthusiastic about all things French. Thus I watched the French terrestrial TV channels, read only (terribly serious) French novels, and ate 100% French food. As the months stretched into years and it was clear that France was to be my permanent home I started to crave a bit of English food, English language literature and television programmes. Nowadays I have gone to the opposite extreme and watch exclusively English/American films and TV programmes on cable TV (apart from the odd good French programme on Canal+ like ‘+Clair’ or ’90 minutes’) and order English/American fiction via Amazon. I watch Eastenders religiously every night, even when it is going through a bad patch. I read Heat magazine when I can lay my hands on it (even though I’ve never seen the English version of any of the reality shows they harp on about ad nauseam). In my former life in the UK I wouldn’t have been seen dead reading a gossip mag and I didn’t follow Eastenders. I suppose I clutch at any Englishness I can get my hands on these days.

Don’t get me wrong, my love affair with France is by no means over. I just missed my English side a little bit. Especially during the period where I worked for Franco-French companies and spoke only French all day long. My Englishness is an important part of who I am, and I want to preserve it.

And I feel the best way to cultivate this is by eating crumpets and drinking tea.

43 Comments

  1. […] iled under: Random bits — wolfangel @ 10:15 am Petite anglaise talks about the closing of M&S in Paris, and how sometimes she craves English fo […]

    Pingback by a wolf angel is not a good angel » What I am is . . . — November 25, 2004 @ 3:15 pm

  2. When I was in Germany I found that I was doing things that accentuated my Englishness. Yes, I’d take part in cultural things, I’d speak the language with the local dialect but there was always something about not assimilating.

    To be honest I felt a greater identity as a person out there than I do here sometimes where I fit in easily.

    Comment by Legomen — November 24, 2004 @ 3:59 pm

  3. We have to arrange something. Let’s meet in Calais. I’ll bring a suitcase full of crumpets, cheddar and crispy seaweed. I’ll exchange it for a suitcase full of Sirop Teisseire, rillettes du Mans and galettes bretonnes…

    Comment by Chninkel — November 24, 2004 @ 4:16 pm

  4. You’re on.

    Tell me Chninkel, are you terribly good looking? If so, our rendez-vous would have the added bonus of making Mr Frog jealous and possibly feeling the need to marry me.

    Just a thought.

    Comment by petite — November 24, 2004 @ 4:25 pm

  5. Hi!

    I am Polish but have lived for more than 1/2 of my life in the UK (British hubby)..and I feel neither 100% Polish (I left Poland in 1979, just before it ALL changed there) nor British (whatever percentage ;PP ). When I am in Poland I praise things English (incl. cooking ;)) ), when in the UK, I eat Polish food that I bring back from Poland and claim what a wonderful place Poland is…recently I took a lot of British edibles to Poland, so that when we are there we’re not missing marmite, sage and onion stuffing, lemon curd, chutneys, cheddar, good tea, curry…..so – Small Britain in Poland and Small Poland in the UK, otherwise you go mad and accept suitcases full of crumpets from strangers ;))))…which reminds me of a little story, maybe an urban legend. When we lived in Nigeria, just before Christmas someone was going to Lagos from the UK on business and lots of people ordered some Christmassy things, well…mainly ONE thing, of which the visitor had a suitcase…false road block robbers stopped the car and took the suitcase…which was, apparently, full of brussel sprouts…

    Krysia

    Comment by Krysia T — November 24, 2004 @ 4:50 pm

  6. :oops:
    You know I have a soft spot for British women. Please, don’t tempt me!

    Mr Frog, I think the message for you is clear…

    Comment by Chninkel — November 24, 2004 @ 4:51 pm

  7. Mmmmm- when I lived in Paris, luckily Marks and Spencer were still open- Porridge, Crumpets, ginger nuts, cheddar cheese, proper tea! (still had to import marmite and Sun Pat Peanut Butter though)
    Don’t get me wrong- I love french markets/supermarkets, but sometimes you just need a taste of home- especially when its dark and cold. Porridge is just the thing to keep you going.
    Also christmas puddings- now what does France have to compare with those?
    Buche de Noel- Yuk! Way too riche!
    Though, I was always impressed at the variety (and cheapness!) at my local ‘Champion’ which was quite small, but managed to always have the most beautiful fruits, delicious yoghurts, excellent cuts of meat etc. We spent so little on our weekly grocery bill then compared with now :(
    Also- I loved being able to get freshly roasted chicken from a rotisserie- our appartment was too small for an oven, so this was a treat I relished.

    Now I always giggle when my Estonian friend in UK receives food parcels from home- because I know just how she feels.

    Love yr blog BTW!

    Comment by Joy — November 24, 2004 @ 5:45 pm

  8. Awww man, anyone fancy setting up a regular care-basket for Petite?

    I can provide the books…

    Comment by PPQ — November 24, 2004 @ 6:04 pm

  9. ahem

    Comment by petite — November 24, 2004 @ 8:06 pm

  10. Ah yes, the closure of M and S, what a trauma – all that misery to appease the shareholders – and it was a Belgian’s fault. What I found particularly illogical was that the company had just spent a fortune revamping many of the continental stores, adding a café section. My son particularly misses the Percy Pigs. If I develop a craving for crumpets, muffins etc., I simply jump on the Eurostar (first class, naturally) and head straight for the Marble Arch branch…

    Comment by Chameleon — November 24, 2004 @ 9:04 pm

  11. My dad managed M&S Paris for 2 years when I was a kid. I never went while he was there but I remember wondering why the country of pain au chocolat (sp?) would want to buy the far less exciting M&S food.

    Comment by thisgirl — November 24, 2004 @ 9:33 pm

  12. Ah but you see, one takes pain au chocolat for granted after a while.

    And sometimes only a scotch pancake will do.

    Comment by petite — November 24, 2004 @ 9:58 pm

  13. When I was 7, my family uprooted from Singapore to Canada. My parents were never openly nostalgic, but I did grow up with an enormous fondness for Singaporean food, which my mum would regularly throw together once or twice a week (due to rarity of ingredients). As time passed on, my love of exotic food grew to encompass more than my country of birth. Now I have no distinct preferences.

    That said, I’ve been in France for the last two years, and while I haven’t missed the food that much, Canada having really no national cuisine to speak of, I found myself horrified recently, at a “Canadian” bar in Paris, by their pathetic selection of Canadian beer. Somehow it’s always our stomachs that refuse to change passports. (or in my case, the liver)

    Comment by nardac — November 25, 2004 @ 1:41 am

  14. I prefer not to talk about that because, as a french, I’m completely lost in the USA. I don’t understand how they can’t care at all about food. Ok, it’s not all true but I miss my french cheese so much…
    So, at least, today, I’ll have a taste at their so famous turkey.

    Anyway, that’s a thing which makes me sure that I won’t forget my France even if I’m far, far away… I have to fight every day to eat something a little bit tasty and juicy.

    I have friends who send me french magazine (Studio (about cinéma), for instance) and french newspaper (ok, L’Equipe) so I stay in touch and it’s important to get those physical things because it’s real not like what you can catch on the internet (which is great but, you know, not real).

    But I still keep watching US TV and US Movies to improve my english. And, by the way, since I’m there, I’m totally lost when I hear someone speaking english with the british accent (THE real english ?). It’s like a different sound, a different langage for me now!

    Comment by Jerome — November 25, 2004 @ 6:35 am

  15. We had similar scenes here in Toulouse Petite. And I understand your ‘englishness’ feelings exactly. After 20 years in France I still get pangs – however, I’m pretty sure they are over some idealised memory of England from watching Rosemary & Thyme on TV.

    Food side is pretty much under control here, we have a new Champion – I don’t know who advised the buyers but they have it spot on. Everything you could imagine is there – at a price though.

    Soon be Spring time again and then you’ll remember why you are here.

    Hairy.

    Comment by Hairy — November 25, 2004 @ 9:30 am

  16. I’m a bit confused here. Last Spring, an American friend living in Paris used to bring me Branston and Cheddar (after I corrupted him into the true way), and I was sure it was from M&S? Anyway, he left one lot on the TGV, so I presume it got binned without the cheminots even opening it… But here in Rennes, I can get pretty much anything apart from proper cheddar (and the aforementioned Branston). There’s an Indian shop that – apart from all the necessary sub-continental spices – sells Ginger Beer and (this is the killer) PG Tips Pyramid tea bags, cheaper than in the UK. Even marmite, mint sauce and Rose’s Lime Cordial. Most of which I don’t much like in bulk. It’s just the principle.

    On the wider assimilation issue, I followed a similar pattern of enthusiastic immersion to semi-detachment. There is a serious point, which is “Target Language Deprivation” (no, really). Talk to most long-term ex-pats and their mother tongue will have been corrupted. As a translator, I have to be really careful not to stick in a “normally” here and a “performant” there. As long as I don’t lose my “ummm” to an “euuuhhh”…

    Comment by Jim in Rennes — November 25, 2004 @ 10:39 am

  17. Tell you what I miss – rhubarb crumble. Mmmmmm.

    Perfectly understand that being English thing.

    Comment by Dan — November 25, 2004 @ 10:59 am

  18. Target language deprivation. That has a serious ring to it. Is there a scientific term for crumpet deprivation?

    I have heard rumours of Carrefour supermarkets in the suburbs stocking real Heinz baked beans (for roughly the price of a gold ingot) but sadly being a city dweller I have to make do with Franprix and Monoprix, which don’t have a great deal.

    I could probably get some ridiculously posh brand stuff in the department stores if I could be bothered. But then I’d have nothing to moan about would I?

    Comment by petite — November 25, 2004 @ 11:01 am

  19. The main difference between Target Language Deprivation and Crumpet (or Angel Delight for the kids)Deprivation is the ease of the cure. Years living back in the UK, or a quick hop to Jersey on the fast ferry from St Malo. It’s sort of like “England Lite”. I know it’s cheating, but being able to get all your Christmas shopping in Woolies is worth the conscience-wrestling. Just don’t tell everyone.

    Comment by Jim in Rennes — November 25, 2004 @ 11:41 am

  20. AHHHH, bought Heinz baked beans once in the middle of the north of france, at a MATCH. Just seeing the design of the can made me happy. They also had Campbell’s Condensed Tomato Soup. Also, last time was in Amsterdam, had a real Bagel with real Cream Cheese. Whoof!

    And shouldn’t it be Native Language Deprivation… not Target La.. If we’re talking about the same thing, I can tell you I’m starting to suffer. Not only that, my best friend, the Bulgarian guy who speaks english with bularian grammar, is messing it all up even more!

    Comment by nardac — November 25, 2004 @ 12:57 pm

  21. If you’re a translator, the target language normally *is* the native language isn’t it? E.g. as an English person, I would translate *into* English (target) from the source (French)…

    Anyway, when I was in France and Belgium, M&S was around to provide the tea bags, peanut butter, cheddar, marmite etc.

    But there are some things I miss about France, bizarre things like “Viandox” (to which my ex-Frog introduced me), “Tonigencil” toothpaste (which had an aniseedy flavour) and the school stationery – so much more interesting than the simple “ruled with margin” pads you get over here!

    Comment by witho — November 25, 2004 @ 1:38 pm

  22. As a Kiwi expat in London for a couple of years I acquired a taste for Malt loaf and Eccles cakes…

    Miss them still.

    Comment by deeleea — November 25, 2004 @ 1:54 pm

  23. I would have never expected someone to miss Tonigencyl!!! :shock:

    Comment by Chninkel — November 25, 2004 @ 2:03 pm

  24. Tiens j’avais remarqué le “Leave a comment, in English or French, I’m not fussy”. Je me débrouille assez bien en anglais mais étant “too fussy”, je ne supporte pas l’idée de me rendre stupide en écrivant un anglais incrusté de fautes.

    Lundi en passant sur le boulevard Haussmann, je me suis demandé quels magasins avait remplacé le Marks & Spencer. C’est vrai, c’est quoi maintenant ? Zara ? Lafayette Maison ?

    Mes parents m’avaient fait découvrir tout petit ce magasin. Trop jeune pour apprécier autre que l’alimentaire, j’en garde un terrible souvenir de ces biscuits british pour le thééééééé. Les sodas et les sandwichs aussi étaient vachement originaux par rapport à ce qu’on pouvait trouver chez nos supermarchés locaux. Ca me manque quand même. Et les chips en forme d’anneaux là … Ahhh, yummy… Il y avait même ma grand mère qui s’habillait là bas. Souvenirs, souvenirs…

    Quel gâchis… :(

    Comment by wiLLoØ — November 25, 2004 @ 2:28 pm

  25. In Lafayette Gourmet (upstairs from Lafayette Homme on Boulevard Haussmann) there is a British “epicerie”, where you can buy Hovis bread, Heinz beans and Cadbury’s chocolate. And at this time of year, Christmas crackers and mince pies (and I bet crumpets too, though I’ve never looked for them). But it’s Galeries Lafayette, petite…so which is stronger? Your (perfectly justified, in my opinion)aversion to GL and their ads, or your desire for all things British? Dilemma:???:

    Comment by Suziboo — November 25, 2004 @ 2:50 pm

  26. BTW, BN Petit Déjeuner and BN Petit Déjeuner éclats de céréales are, respectively, chocolate digestives and chocolate hobnobs. In fancy French packaging, but nonetheless…

    Comment by Suziboo — November 25, 2004 @ 2:57 pm

  27. hello, french girl in the UK here… I live the same thing in reverse (at least for the food).
    Ok, it’s getting easier to get proper cheese in supermarket, but I miss pistachio ice cream and other things.
    I bring back french food via eurostar each time I go back to Lille (France), or my mom get me some, and she stock up with english food.

    My case get even more complicated when I miss belgian chocolate, and american Lucky Charms…

    I understand the pleasure of reading in your native language, an I think it’s easier to find english books in France (FNAC…) than french books in England ;)

    Comment by AngelSan — November 25, 2004 @ 3:04 pm

  28. Chninkel – I said it was bizarre! Aquafresh just isn’t the same… :roll:

    Comment by witho — November 25, 2004 @ 3:24 pm

  29. If I ever have to leave the UK, I will take with me tons of Jammie dodgers and traditional Welsh cakes.

    Comment by Chninkel — November 25, 2004 @ 3:33 pm

  30. witho – try Euthymol toothpaste as a substitute. Can’t be sure, but I seem to remember having the opposite problem… And you’re spot on about target/native language. One is for translators and the other for normal humans.
    Blimey, petite, this has stirred up a lot of barely-supressed missing of stuff.

    Comment by Jim in Rennes — November 25, 2004 @ 4:15 pm

  31. Have you noticed how many comments you get when you talk about food? I miss food. Here in Zambia you can buy Heinz baked beans for about 40p, cheaper than the local ‘shoprite’ brand. Still haven’t worked that out. We can also get Worcestershire sauce. This is made locally and costs about 5p, comes in a small plastic bottle with a dodgy label. Nothing like the real thing but it does make us laugh.

    Comment by Claypot — November 25, 2004 @ 4:41 pm

  32. p’tite, is fresh milk still an issue over there (as opposed to UHT)? When I first got to France, I used to wonder why their fresh milk stocks were so small – then I realised that most people were buying UHT cartons – of which there’s usually a whole aisle or more…

    The teenie cartons of UHT cream were handy for cooking though…

    Comment by witho — November 25, 2004 @ 5:44 pm

  33. Claypot – quite

    I bare my soul and hardly anyone comments.

    I moan about crumpets and am swept away by a tsunami.

    Sorry not to have posted today folks – lots of work (how dare they?) and rotten filthy cold have meant that today’s offering is still only half finished…

    Comment by petite — November 25, 2004 @ 6:02 pm

  34. It’s only because it’s so much easier to comment on someone’s food preferences than to comment on its feelings.

    Comment by Chninkel — November 25, 2004 @ 6:05 pm

  35. The problem I’ve seen in Europe (though I’ve never been to France, this has been the case in other countries) is that you don’t have the same ginormous fridges so you can’t freeze a month’s worth of home treats (at least the freezables). Incidentally, a bagel (or a dozen) show up on the x-ray machines your hand luggage go through.

    Comment by wolfangel — November 25, 2004 @ 6:18 pm

  36. Thanks for the toothpaste tip Jim!
    p’tite – do they still have the fresh milk issue over there?

    I was most confused at the tiny stock of fresh milk in huge French supermarkets. Then realised everyone else was buying UHT by the trolleyload…

    Your posts always echo my experience of France p’tite – great site

    Comment by witho — November 25, 2004 @ 9:38 pm

  37. You can’t even buy fresh skimmed – it only exists in UHT. And not-quite-Tetley tea with recycled Seine water plus UHT is a recipe for disaster. Even if it is in a Wallace & Gromit cup…

    Comment by petite — November 25, 2004 @ 11:34 pm

  38. As an American living in Poland, I can say without a doubt what I miss most is easy access to English language books. My Polish is good enough that I can read without much dictionary consulting, but the dictionary consulting is still a persistent reality, and that doesn’t make for relaxing reading.

    Regarding food, I remember the first time here I made a burrito dinner — I made everything: the salsa, the tortillas, the refried beans. I made the first one, took it to the table to eat, and realized two things were missing: someone to share it with (I’m sure it would have tasted much better then) and a camera (so my mom would believe it),

    Comment by Gary — November 26, 2004 @ 6:46 am

  39. my god, what food brings out in people!

    petite… my recipe for perfect crispy seaweed … (except for the powdered shrimp on top)… take one of the really dark green varieties of cabbage, shred it finely, bearing in mind it’s going to shrink to about a third of its size. Lay it quite loosely and thinly out on baking sheets (about 1cm deep) and dry in it a medium oven for 20 minutes or so, better with a fan oven…. anyway, until it looks fairly dried out… if you’re like me and could eat kilos of the stuff, it takes quite a few ovensful to do. ONly then do you fry it in very hot peanut oil. Then salt it as you take it out and put it on kitchen paper to drain.

    lots of love, delia webb

    Comment by vitriolica — November 26, 2004 @ 2:42 pm

  40. petite anglaise is now officially a FOOD BLOG!

    What next? Knitting patterns?

    *No offence to my co-food and knitting bloggers intended! Nor to my Christian blogger visitors with my next offering…

    Comment by petite — November 26, 2004 @ 2:56 pm

  41. Now Petite Anglaise is officially a food blog, I, naturally, have stumbled across you.
    San Francisco is even further from home than Paris. But we CAN get crumpets here as there is a company that makes them locally, in not too bad of a rendition. But oh, for a scotch pancake someone mentioned.
    Things I really really miss – pork chipolatas, smoked haddock, english white crusty bread, bacon, galaxy minstrels, crispy aromatic duck pancakes (the US is like Paris in that respect, no chinese restaurant has them here), Fry’s Chocolate Creams, mustard and cress, Cheesey Wotsits, Quavers, Prawn Cocktails and Walkers Crisps, Shreddies, Sugar Puffs and Ready Brek, Sure Cool White deodrant, Heat mag (I don’t know what the heck reality show they are going on about either) and Resolve. My mum sends me some stuff, but she got banned from buying more than 1 box of Resolve at a time in Sainsburys. They thought she was drug addict!
    MY BF is from Paris and he misses the mustard (Maille Veloute, our favourite) and real Dijon. We have to get people to bring this stuff back for us. But because of customes laws, the pork chipolatas, mustard and cress and saucisson sec are things we just have to dream about instead… :cry:

    Comment by Sam — December 3, 2004 @ 7:25 pm

  42. Oh no. It’s started already. In my local Hypermarket… The Galettes des Rois. Eating reams of crispy photocopy paper with a hint of almond. And the exciting possibility of destroying teeth or (worse) valuable bridgework on a clay figurine made in china in China. Every day for a month. Hurrah. What is it all about, Petite?

    Comment by Jim in Rennes — December 17, 2004 @ 3:00 pm

  43. *puts on investigative journalist hat*

    I will report on this shortly, thanks for the idea Jim.

    Comment by petite — December 17, 2004 @ 3:19 pm


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