Practising Creativity

12 Things You Can Find in a Swiss or French Supermarket You Probably Won't Find in an American One

European and American supermarkets are definitely different. There are things you see in European grocery stores that you never – or hardly ever – see in an American one.  I'm talking supermarkets, not specialty shops. These photos were taken a few weeks ago – before our second confinement began – at one of our favorite stores in Switzerland, but could just as easily have been taken in France. The French speaking part of Switzerland near Geneva has much in common with its French neighbor. There are some things you find in one country you don't find in the other, but overall there's not much difference between the two. I'd say the biggest difference is price – Switzerland is more expensive than France. 

Curious? Here are 12 things you can find in a Swiss/French/European supermarket you probably won't find in an American one:


1. Huge fresh bread sold by weight. Want a little or a lot, the choice is yours.


2. Ham still on the hoof.


3. Wild game meat – very popular in autumn. It's called 'la chasse' (the hunt) and it starts to appear in markets and on menus in late September/October. This particular brand is from Slovenia, hence the English label.


4. Rabbit (lapin). Can't say I ever recall seeing rabbit for sale in an American supermarket. I think this one was mooning me.


5. Foie gras (duck or goose liver) – you won't find this French specialty because you can't; it's now banned in the USA.


6. I've seen lots of young pigeons (a pigeonneau) strutting on the streets, but can't ever recall seeing one  in a supermarket.


7. Fresh mussels (moules) have appeared on American menus I've ordered from, but I haven't seen them fresh in a supermarket.


8. You might argue with me on #8. 'But, we've got cheese in the States,' you say. Yeah, but lots and lots of cheese? Cheese from goat's milk, sheep's milk and cow's milk? Hundreds of different varieties of cheese? From lots of different countries? A cheese section that's bigger than the chips and ice cream sections combined? I rest my case.


9. Horse meat – it's good for you, it'll make you strong. That's what my husband's mother used to tell him as a little boy, which is probably why he no longer eats it. After all my years over here, I've never tried it. Frankly, I have no desire to.


10. Goat and sheep milk aren't easily found in the USA. I've scouted them down in health food stores on visits back, but they're very expensive and tiny in size. Goat and sheep milk are as plentiful here as cow's milk. I prefer goat's milk. It is higher in protein and more easily digested than cow's milk.


11. Unrefrigerated eggs and milk are standard here, something you don't see in the USA. As my A Trip to a Small French Market post explained, in Europe eggs are sold unrefrigerated. This has to do with how they're produced. In the USA, the cuticle – the egg's outer protective layer – is washed away. Without that cuticle, eggs have to be refrigerated to prevent salmonella bacteria forming in the egg, but in Europe washing eggs is illegal, so farmers vaccinate their chickens against salmonella. With this cuticle intact, refrigeration could actually cause contamination via mildew. 

As to milk, the difference is due to the pasteurization process. The USA uses the HTST (high-temperature short-time) method. The name really says it all, it's milk heated at a high temperature for a short time. It works, but not for long, which is why refrigerated milk has a short shelf life. Europe (and most of the rest of the world) uses the UHT (ultra-heat-treated) method. This method uses an even higher temperature and shorter time than HTST which allows it to keep at room temperature for around six months. Once you open the container though, you have to refrigerate it.


12. I've saved this one for 'the bottom' and yes, there's a pun there. In general, you will see that most European cashiers are sitting down, whereas in the USA they're standing up. This is only logical. There's no reason for cashiers to be on their feet all day, when they could do their jobs just as well (even better) sitting down.

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