I had the good fortune to be in Paris over New Years, and I found myself in the unlikely position of hosting a meal for thirteen people in our rental apartment. Ok, six adults and seven kids, but still! It proved to be the perfect opportunity to sample the food secret all French women already know: Picard. It’s kind of bizarre: while American women are reading up on how to be eat, cook, and dress like the French, French women are happily serving their families frozen food a la the 1960′s American housewife. This is France, though, so we aren’t talking Swanson TV dinners. While I found the ubiquitous Picard stores to feel like morgues–all-white rooms with florescent lighting and rows of deep freezers–they sell a tremendous selection of truly gourmet food made exactly like grandmère used to make. We picked out delicate amuse bouches, a bone-in, skin-on guinea hen stuffed with mushrooms and Armangac brandy, Coquilles St Jacques, and the traditional New Year’s cake called gallette des rois, which came complete with trinket inside and a paper crown for the lucky winner. (You can see the choices at picard.fr.) Why can’t I shop at some place similar in the U.S.? So many moms I know love Trader Joe’s and Costco for their frozen food, but buy it only to have as an option for that off-night when they need it. The ingredients aren’t as healthy, and the entree selection is too small to serve regularly.
What would it be like to have such a wide-ranging choice of good frozen food made from “real” ingredients? I think maybe we’d do what French moms have apparently come to do: rely on it.