Franco Files: Grocery Shopping in Paris at Picard

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Frozen food at Picard, a chain of grocery stores in Paris.

Fancy foods.

Parisiennes have lots of little secrets for their shopping. Especially their grocery shopping in Paris, which until very recently was expected to be a daily activity. That was only a decade ago. Today the majority of French women work outside the home, while still being responsible for 80 percent of the household chores. And they do it all perfectly accessorized, wearing three-inch heels. Who can blame them for coming up with shortcuts?

One of my favorite shortcuts comes from a very specialized chain store hidden at 30 different addresses across the city. The store’s signs boast a powerful graphic logo in a modern ice-blue tone. The same shape is frosted into the glass doors of each shop. Opening the doors, you are immediately impressed with the frigid, white ambience, as staff stroll the corridors in white lab coats, pushing silver insulated shopping carts. You have entered Picard, a grocery chain in Paris selling frozen foods. Only frozen foods.

Picard, a chain of grocery stores in Paris

Is it a lab or a boutique?

A labyrinth of iceboxes pulls Parisiennes along as they buy their meals for  the week. Monday she is going out with her husband, leaving the kids to fend for themselves: pizza, flash frozen in Italy, is sure to please. Family of four around the table Tuesday night? Why not a succulent paella with sorbet-stuffed frozen lemons? In the mood for something exotic? The tom yum soup is the perfect remedy.

If she is expecting guests over the weekend, Mlle Paris is likely to pick up some roasted red peppers, a bit of cod and maybe even frozen berries that she can whip into a gourmet meal. Sound like treason? The goods at Picard are such high quality that even the chef at the Ritz Escoffier cooking school buys his pastry crust at the Picard grocery shop in Paris, where he is sure that everything will be 100 percent pure butter and margarine free.

Picard, a chain of grocery stores in Paris

Sign of the times.

Picard has become such a staple in the Parisienne’s daily life that the store now publishes a catalogue featuring sophisticated recipes, and offers even more preparation advice and suggestions on its website.

So next time you are shopping in Paris and you see the blue snowflake, take a peek and discover every Parisienne’s little secret.

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