Lunch Al Fresco

boulangerieThere’s an article in today’s Guardian {http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2010/jun/09/british-expats-france-supermarket-deliveries} on how business is booming for companies which collect customers’ on-line shopping from the British supermarkets — Asda, Tesco, Sainsbury’s and so on — and deliver them. To the South of France.

This has been going on for a year or so, but really peaked late last year, when the Pound-Euro rate was particularly bad for ex-pats. (In October, a Pound was worth just €1.08). Even with the weakness of the Euro now (€1.21 to the Pound today) the grocery-exporting companies are still working to capacity. According to the newspaper article, Kellog’s cornflakes, for example, cost the equivalent of €4.30 a kilo from Asda, but €5.20 from the French Carrefour chain.

I can just imagine it: you wake up in your beautiful old cottage in a quaint village in Provence. The birds are singing, the insects buzzing, and the hard, bright sunlight is starting to heat up the stones. You shake some Kellog’s cornflakes into an earthenware bowl and pour in some of Asda’s semi-skimmed milk. Living abroad: you’re doin’ it wrong.

I have a tiny bit of experience of French village life, and the correct approach is either to amble down to the café-tabac and have a croissant and coffee there (espresso for me, cappucino for you), or else to collect the morning pastry and the lunch baguette from the village boulangerie/pâtisserie and take them home. Bakers’ shops are protected by law in France. They’ve got their priorities right.

I’m planning to move abroad myself; although it’s Italy in my case, not France. And I just can’t understand the nostalgic attraction that ex-pats have for branded British foods. In fact, if you looked in my fridge and pantry now, there isn’t anything that’s specifically British and has a well-known band name, except for some McVities chocolate-flavoured biscuits. If I had to give those up, in favour of something Continental that used actual chocolate, I think my life and health would be slightly improved.

Nonetheless, it has occurred to me from time to time that there might be money to be made by exploiting those who can’t let go. I’ve imagined opening a little shop in Chianti to sell the absurd things that English-speaking people seem to miss: tins of Heinz beans; cans of ‘draught’ Guinness; cases of Tayto crisps; HP sauce; Twinkies; Patak’s curry sauces.

But, nah. On reflection, I find the concept depressing. I imagine being stuck in a dark, dusty shop like Ronnie Barker’s “Open All Hours”, while colourful, happy, healthy Mediterranean life goes on outside. The latter is the whole reason for emigrating in the first place.

lunch, chianti and wisteria

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