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Monday, July 9, 2007

A British-French-American 4th of July

My version of the Our Lady Liberty à la 1664

For the 4th of July two of my American friends and I got together to celebrate, but we naturally got started on the 3rd to welcome in the 4th.  Met by the Rhône river to have a few drinks quayside and enjoy the view.  I brought a bottle of pink wine and the French-version of a Dixie plastic cup.  In other words that means my cup was super small and I got nearly 6 glasses out of one bottle of wine.  I was drinking ‘pink’ wine, as it was so inexpensive that I didn’t feel like it could actually merit the Rosé title.  We drank, walked to a convenience store for some more aperitifs, then to one of the folks apartments before heading out for the night to a British pub.  We wanted to celebrate American first for our national holiday first, so we made s’mores in the microwave and took pictures with the good ol’ red white and blue. Our s’mores were somewhat Franco-American however and made with tea cookie/crackers instead of graham crackers, as those don’t exist in France.  Marshmallows are not the easiest thing to come by either, but the chocolate is ridiculously plentiful and in a bounty of varieties.  Perhaps we got heavy-handed with the chocolate… but I don’t think that’s possible.

The many eggplant colors
While we are on the American subject, let’s talk about grocery shopping.  As I mentioned in my pre-departure email, I’m only earning enough money to pay rent and drink wine, but occasionally I buy groceries too.  Most French grocery stores are about the size of a two big convenience stores (think BP Connect times 2), but there are sometimes one (or two) big grocery stores in some larger cities that resemble a *mini* Super Wal-Mart.  Some of these larger stores have teeny-tiny American sections available, which I think might be put there in partnership with Comedy Central for Americans.  The products are indeed bona fide American, and skillfully accompanied by outrageous prices.  It goes something like this: a can of Planters mixed nuts for $13, Jack Daniels bbq sauce for $6, marshmallows, Skippy peanut butter, Campbell’s condensed soup and random English food products (often fruitcake and spiced cakes).  Indeed the French eat mixed nuts and have a wide selection for a tenth of the price, but no the French do not eat peanut butter nor use bbq sauce or condensed soup.  They are beginning to take to marshmallows thanks to the German candy maker Haribo’s introduction a few years ago.  Many French people have no idea even what peanut butter is and why on Earth Americans like it and eat so much of it.  I kind of equate it to Marmite in Australia.  Why do Australians eat that awful stuff anyway, yuck!?!??

By the way, those who know me well are familiar with my peanut butter addiction…  Unfortunately the PB withdrawal was very challenging those first couple of weeks.  I had the shakes for about 3 weeks, but now after 5 weeks I’m doing pretty well.  ;)

I wandered into what I thought was a Polish grocery store last week.  Turns out it was Russian, but took me nearly 20 minutes to figure that out despite the store being no bigger than a large bedroom.  None of the products had French ingredient listings, nor even written English or German, which is about where my language talents stop.  I found myself shopping by pictures only, and thankfully chocolate speaks all languages.  Found a Japanese grocery store and did the same thing, but walked out with peanuts and eggrolls instead.

 Cheers to everyone from Lyon!

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