In my opinion, one of the best ways to understand a culture is to look around one of their grocery stores. So after six hours of lecture about fermented milk and cheese processing, I was excited to join my roommates for some food shopping in preparation for our class picnic tomorrow. Since essentially everything in Cluny is within walking distance, we headed to the Atac grocery store on foot in search of some side dishes to complement the meat, cheese, and bread that would be the stars of our picnic.
After seeing many citizens of Cluny stocking up on fresh produce, cheeses, and meats at the Saturday market, it was no surprise that more than half the Atac grocery store was dedicated to those fresh items. The other half consisted of toiletries, wine, and packaged goods. Scanning the cookie and cracker aisle was particularly fun for me because I was able to see international products from the food company that I work for- Mondelez International. I couldn’t resist buying a few Mondelez cookies that I had never seen before- including ones with Milka chocolate both inside AND on top!
|As my roommates and I lined up to check out, we approached the part of the grocery store that I had been anticipating the most- the chewing gum rack. Rarely is the chewing gum rack ever visited with any specific intention; it’s typically an afterthought or a tempting distraction while waiting in line. But I had dedicated my previous summer to French chewing gum during my internship at Mondelez and my heart was beating out of my chest as I approached the rack. Finally, after studying both our company’s and our competitions’ products and flavor profiles in extreme depth and after waiting months to have samples sent over to the U.S., I could reach out and touch the subjects of my research. Brand names and foreign flavors that I had only heard or read about were staring right back at me from the shelf and, naturally, I excitedly grabbed quite a few packs to taste test. This was a really special moment for me, especially since in about a year and a half the new French chewing gum that I had helped design might be sitting right on this very shelf. Guess I’ll have to return to France in Q3 2019 to find out for myself!
|After moving past the chewing gum rack and through the check out line, my roommates and I halted when we approached the exit of the Atac grocery store. It was absolutely pouring rain outside! After waiting a few minutes to see if the rain would stop- and seeing that it clearly had no intention of stopping any time soon- we decided to make a run for it. Lugging our groceries and without rain jackets or umbrellas, we began to sprint through the Atac parking lot in the direction of our hostel. However, after about 10 seconds of being in the rain we were already completely soaked and decided there was no use in running. It definitely felt like the rain in France was more intense than any rain I had ever experienced- later we would learn that the vignerons (wine grape growers) agree and constantly worry about the physical damage the heavy rains inflict on their grapes. By the time we had walked all the way back to Cluny Sejour, we were the wettest we had ever been! After ringing out our clothing and patting our groceries dry, the rain finally stopped and we warmed up over dinner in town at Taco Kebab- an ethnic eatery marketed toward the university students who walked around Cluny in their long, decorated lab coats.|