Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Adventures in Paris, Part 1 of many: In which I completely fail to buy an onion.

As may have already become clear in previous posts, I don't have the best luck when it comes to onions. I tend to run out at inconvenient times, or forget to buy them, or find that the ones I have are rotted just when I'm getting ready to cook. However, I've never actually failed at purchasing one before.

Aaron ran out to grab a few things for dinner and breakfast the first day we arrived, but today has been the first day I've felt up to navigating a French supermarché, and we needed groceries badly. So I gathered my bags, put together a bilingual shopping list, and went merrily off to to the Carrefour. Unlike the small shops, which are very helpful, the supermarket experience in France is generally not so different from the US (which is to say, apathetic), and one can wander up and down the aisles in peace, quietly gawking at the yogurt (100+ kinds!), the ethnic food aisle (fresh ramen noodles! Tortilla chips! nuoç mam!), and the meat case (smoked duck breast! Whole rabbit!)

I managed to find everything on my list, and went off to the cash register, feeling very proud of myself. Remembered to say bonjour, and was happily bagging my groceries, when the cashier started brandishing the single onion I bought for tonight's dinner, and asking me a question. The first time around, I missed it entirely, catching only the oignon at the end. I apologized and asked her to repeat herself, but didn't get much further, aside from balance. I looked around in vain for a cashier's scale, and then realized there didn't seem to be one.

We tried to bridge the linguistic barrier, but to no great success. I still have no idea what I was supposed to do with the onion. All I can guess is that I was supposed to weigh it myself. At the checkout somewhere? In the produce section? (Perhaps there's a way to label the bag I missed?) After several rounds of apologies between the cashier and I, it was decided that it would be better for everyone if I did not, in fact, buy the onion. I left with two full bags of groceries, and no onion. After getting home and thoroughly laughing at my predicament with Aaron, I hopped downstairs to the tiny family grocery right under our flat, where they smiled at my terrible French, and helpfully typed out my total so I knew how much to pay them for my two small onions. Getting over the constant interaction and the language barrier is a little intimidating, but there's a lot to be said for genuinely friendly customer service.

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