Monday, February 25, 2008

Eatin' On the Cheap: Part I in a Series

Let's hope it's a long series.

So I decided to forgo having a sit-down meal, or even opting to hit the American Embassy (you know, the one with the golden arches) and went uber-cheap for dinner tonight. With a trip to the Casino.

No, no, not a gaming joint. Casino is a supermarket chain here. And while this goes against the whole ├╝ber-European ideal of buying little things from the local bakery, cheesemonger, deli, etc., you have to keep in mind that until I find an apartment, I'm in Clichy.

Being in Paris while actually staying in Clichy is like... being in San Francisco while actually staying in Daily City. Without the awesome dim sum... Like being in Los Angeles while actually staying in Van Nuys. Without the killer Mexican food... Like being in New York City while actually staying in Jamaica/Queens. Without the cheap crack...

Ok, enough badmouthing Clichy. I did that on my last trip here, and one of these days after some gentrification and real estate speculation, I'm sure it'll be an affluent suburb with wonderful things like Outback Steakhouse, PF Changs, and Elephant Bar. Er.. maybe not.

Back to dinner. So I went to Casino and picked up some chips, a few apples, and a whole shitload of Badoit.

Badoit is my favorite mineral water. I blame the evil bitch waitress at San Francisco's Le Zinc for getting me hooked on it. At $9 a bottle, it may as well be a mild form of heroin. Lightly effervescent, smooth-tasting heroin. Then I started buying it for $3 a bottle at a French restaurant supply place in Brisbane. But you know how much it is here? Fifty mothaf***in' cents. Even at our godawful exchange rate, that's barely 75 US cents a bottle.

This is all due to the economies of scale. For as environmentally progressive as Europe is, Parisians drink a shitload of bottled water. And as you may well know, bottled water is one of the most evil things for the environment. The wasted bottling materials, the polluting transport, the billions wasted on marketing - all for stuff you can just get out of the tap and be hydrated just the same. But here, they drink it like it's going out of style. The bottled water consumption here makes those pony-tailed MILFs toting litres of Evian at LA gyms look like utter lightweights. France may be all about green transit, green construction, green spaces - but the ultimate institution here is the green of a bottle of Perrier.

But you know who the asshole is here? Me, that's who. Not because I should know better than to buy bottled water, but because tonight, I was that guy. The culturally unsavvy bastard who did the unthinkable: Hold up the grocery store line.

The checker rang up my armload of water, my chips, and then she got to my bag of apples. She machine-gunned something at me in French. I tried my hardest to answer the question. "Euhhh... les pommes? Elles sont les pommes.. uhhh.. Gala?" She shook her head, obviously not asking what kind of apples they were. She machine-gunned again. This time I caught something about a tag and the weight. Instead of dumping the apples, though, she was patient - despite the huge queue behind me - and allowed me to go back to the produce section to figure out exactly what I had to do.

So with a mob of frustrated Frenchmen behind me, I went looking for a scale. Or those little tags that you use at the bulk bins at hippie grocery stores. Neither were anywhere to be seen. Then I saw some contraption where you lay your produce, punch the button bearing the picture of what you're buying, and it spits out a little barcode ticket. I did a little victory dance and laughed as I slapped the ticket on my bag, oblivious to the fact that the line of Frenchmen was growing larger and ever more disgruntled. I came back all proud of myself, beaming that I'd somehow figured out how to buy a bag of apples in France.

The checker looked at me like the idiot that I am.

The apple I had for dinner was absolutely delicious, by the way. And blissfully cheap.

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