Sadly, France doesn’t have much to offer in the way of the comfy, reassuring foods you might be used to at home, unless all you need is some Chicken McNuggets and McDonald’s fries, or you want to make something from scratch. Pre-packaged food here doesn’t really cut it. It only vaguely resembles the thing it’s supposed to taste like. Most American brands are unheard of, hot dogs are really just footlong weiners on a loaf of baguette, “beignets” are waffles with powdered sugar, and even the macaroni and cheese is actually penne, with four cheeses. So when you’re really hankering for some downhome food, it’s easy to feel stranded. That’s where substitutions come in.
I’m happy to say that if you’re like me and want Diet 7-Up when you feel sick or your stomach is upset, Lorina makes a soft drink called “Limonade Light,” which while not a dead ringer for 7-Up, comes very close. It’s not as sweet or full-flavored, and it has a bit of a tonic-y aftertaste, but it’s a decent substitute. If sugar isn’t a problem, most grocery stores also stock Canada Dry Ginger Ale, and there’s generally a selection of Schweppe’s and sparkling water. Be warned, however, most flavored sparkling waters in France also have sugar or corn syrup as a main ingredient. And of course, you can get the main varieties of Coke & Pepsi, though they will taste different from home, and I suggest skipping the canned varieties except in the case of Diet Coke with Lime.
If soup is your thing, stay well away from the liquid stuff in cartons; it’s truly horrendous, dreadful stuff. Knorr makes a line of dry soups you mix with water that are a cut above the usual powdered soup mixes and way better than any of the other powdered soups available.
If you want pasta, dried Barilla is the same dependable stuff from home and less starchy than most of the other affordable off the shelf pastas. I’d skip the stuffed refrigerated pastas, if I were you. They’re okay, but they’re not as good as the ones you find in the refrigerated case at home. Pasta sauces aren’t what you’re used to either, and I find the pesto particularly disappointing. If you use the jarred kind, you’ll want to augment it with lots of extra basil and maybe some pine nuts.
Oreo cookies can be found, if one looks for those little nibbler cups. And you can find any variety of shortbread cookie your heart desires.
Pringles can be found in regular, barbecue, and sour cream & onion flavors, and if you love Ruffles, just about any of the chips ondulées taste very close to the ridged chips from home.
Stay tuned for further food updates!