Quel chou? Kale chou!

In my almost five years in Paris, I have learned (sometimes the hard way) that finding certain items in this town can be unpredictable  and to remember to keep an open mind when setting out for something specific. (Case in point: it took me a week to find inexpensive silver glitter.) More often this applies with food. I have maintained a habit of relying on the Parisian basics, nothing too wild, so I would no longer set myself up for disappointment. 

It took one rainy day in the 12th to have my theory come crashing down on me...

It was a typical Friday morning at the Daumesnil farmer's market to stock up on veggies for the weekend. All the usual friends were present: onions, garlic, tomatos, chou frisé, cauliflower, brussels sprouts, kale...whoa, back the train up, kale?! My friend with benefits was there! Delighted by this fine and unexpected discovery, I struck up small talk with the merchant who told me that they were there every Friday and always have kale as it has been in high demand. (Many thanks to the efforts of The Kale Project for creating this demand.) 

How progressive for my quiet area of Paris! For laughs, Aurel and I have spruced up Daumesnil by giving it one of those cutesy New York-style acronyms the jauntier parts of town are sometimes called. Over wine one night, we came up with SoNa, for South Nation. I know, I know, it so doesn't work, but I always enjoy seeing the expressions on our French friends faces when we tell them that we live in SoNa.

Last week, I prepared a shopping list for a dinner party we were hosting, and a part of me knew I was setting myself up for major disappointment, but I did it; I put kale on my list and set off on my journey.

My first stop was the supermarket for items like rice milk, dark chocolate tablettes for melting and foie gras toast. Amazingly, the market didn't have dark chocolate tablettes or foie gras toast, yet they had organic rice milk in several varieties. That just struck me as odd, but I wasn't going to let that discourage me, there were other supermarkets in my neighborhood who would meet such needs.

I left the supermarket and made my way over to the farmer's market with my little list. I stocked up on my basic veggies at my favorite corner stand where the merchant gives me a free clementine for my patronage, and picked up a few blocks of cheese before setting out for my kale. I had remembered that the stand was closer to the Dugommier stop and made a beeline straight for it. 

Have you ever walked quickly though a farmer's market? I don't recommend it. Everything started to look the same, some of the meat cases had gruesome displays that was making my stomach turn, my bag containing three kilos of veggies was digging into my shoulder, the merchants shouting "One euro, one euro allons-y allons-y!" and having also skipped breakfast that morning, I really thought I was going to faint. It was the Paris farmer's market version of that hazy scene in season one of The O.C when Marissa gets drugged and is wandering the streets of Tijuana. I wasn't sure if I was going to make it.

I finally found the stand, or at least I thought it was, and saw no trace of kale in sight. Of course I didn't. They had chou frisé but not kale, which really are two different things.

"Bonjour, do you have any kale chou today?" I asked, remembering that was what they had called it the first time I purchased it.


"Kale chou?" I repeated, struggling as I tried to say kale with a French accent.

"Which chou?"

"Kale chou."

"Mademoiselle, I'm not following you. Which chou do you want?"

"Kale chou?" 

After what felt like ten minutes of "kale chou?" "which chou?" It became aware to me that despite my efforts in saying kale with the best French accent I could conjure up, he thought I was saying quel chou (what chou), over, and over, and over, and over. No wonder he was looking at me like I was out of my damn mind.

Feeling slightly embarrassed, as other customers were listening in on our bizarre exchange, with no further explanation, I ran away. There was nothing more to say or do, I just needed to be gone. In my little rubber rain boots, off I went to find refuge elsewhere.

It served me right to think I could go back and get something as uncommon as kale! Paris isn't quite there yet. I couldn't be frustrated, how could I be? What I needed to was to shift my mindset and remember where I was. With that, I walked over to the nearest boulangerie to pick up the most French thing I could think of, something that is always available and brings me comfort, and ordered a trusty croissant au beurre.

"Oh, we actually don't have anymore," the baker said, "We still have muffins though."

Oh. là. là. Since when are there muffins in Paris? I walked home eating my chocolate chip muffin under my umbrella, reminded that in Paris you just have to let the day take you where it goes and to surrender to the flow. Kale surprise.

Bon week-end a tous!


  1. Ahh! Dying! That's so weird that they didn't have it. They always email me saying they do! Next time, try chou plume or chou kale versus kale chou... it might be easier with less mix-up? Great story and thanks for the shout-out. Sharing on Monday! x

    1. Perhaps they moved their stand? I'm pretty sure I went to the same spot, but I may be mistaken. Hmmmm.

      You know what maybe it was called chou kale the first time. That makes sense. Okay, I'm going to try again tomorrow using one of these names. Hopefully I'll find the woman who had helped me the first time and knew who you were.

      Thanks for sharing the post with your fans! xo!!

  2. ROFL, brings a whole new meaning to French farce ;o) Bet you find it next week too...

    1. I'm going to try again tomorrow! Wish me luck. :)

  3. Kale histoire, mon chou!:)) Here are a few synonyms for next time:é :)

    I love going to the market:) There is a small one on campus here, and I missed it this week because of a two-day conference, but it was well worth it:)))

    Hope the dinner party was a success and that your hard work was appreciated!:) S told me that when we have you over with A, we'll have to do something extra special because as he put it: "On a été très bien reçus!" :)

    I totally agree:)

    1. Kale isn't really the same as chou frisé (the merchant had plenty of it that day). When you see the two side by side the difference is more apparent. Chou frisé is certainly a lovely alternative, but I was in the mood to make crispy kale that night!

      The dinner party was fantastic! We had such a good time; the energy was flowing, everyone vibed, our little efforts were appreciated and more importantly everyone got the chance to speak. I went to one dinner party recently where one person brazenly dominated the conversation making the entire night awkward and boring.

      I'm so glad you had a nice time! We were happy to host you. : )

    2. Don't you just hate narcissistic people?!

      Here's an article you should find interesting:

    3. I don't know what you refer to as chou frisé in Paris, but here in Québec chou frisé is the exact same thing as kale :)

  4. Who's on first? Thanks for the giggle!

    It's always fun trying to pronounce English words in French, or understand what the French are talking about when they do it. I was burned recently ordering a cocktail with a franglais name and the bartender totally corrected my pronunciation of the English part.

    1. Hehehe you're welcome. : )

      My favorite example of not understanding something we're used to hearing in English when said by a French speaker is Tom Hanks. I'm always like huh?! And then I realize who they are referring to.

      What was the name of the cocktail?! I'm trying to guess...a baybreeze? Sex on zee beach?

  5. Funny post! I could relate, in a way.

    You know, I actually did faint in a grocery store about 10 years ago. I remember everything going grey as I was trying to pay for my groceries and the cashier looking at me like I was crazy when I said "I can't see anything." Of course the doc I saw dismissed it as a stomach bug, then I fainted again in an elevator at work. You know what it ended up being? Cysts in my ovaries caused by severe endometriosis. And my obgyn had missed it totally for years.

    Anyhow, that story just to say it's no fun to faint while you're shopping for groceries! And I just know my mother-in-law who picked me up from the store to go to the doc thought I was pregnant. Mais, non.

    My parents grow kale in the spring, and always try to push it on me. I wish I could send it to you! I don't like it so much unless it's in the form of kale chips. And I don't always want to make kale chips. I'm kale lazy.

    1. Thanks, Madeleine! I'm glad you enjoyed it. : )

      Holy merde, your story terrifies me. This is one of my biggest fears since I have somewhat of a history with this "area". Oh my goodness, I hope everything has been okay since. Thank you for sharing such a personal anecdote and I'm sorry you fainted in public. You must have been so confused when you woke up. Poor thing.

      Fresh garden-grown kale in your backyard! Wow, quel reve! We have a packet of seeds from TKP but I have a feeling that my balcony garden will not produce the luscious bushels of kale that I crave. It's worth a try. I bought a little pot yesterday. : )

    2. Don't be terrified, please :) Just demand an ultrasound if you ever suspect anything isn't right. That shows problems with ovaries, but to diagnose other things, sometimes laparoscopic surgery is the only thing. Had several surgeries (one open, and a few laps). I feel like that is all behind me now, esp. since I pretty much assaulted my ovaries to death with surgeries, though I didn't really have a choice. I take HRT now. A positive out of all this is that relatives never bothered me to have kids. I enjoy the child-free lifestyle, and I can always hang with my nephews and niece. But, please don't let my story worry you. I don't want to send anxiety across the internet.

      Hope your kale project goes well. I've never had much luck growing anything in my suburban yard besides hot peppers! My family's farm is a couple of hours away from where I live.

  6. That market isn't that far from me. I might have to get some kale! Or try ;)

    1. It's a great market, isn't it? I'm going to try again tomorrow! Hopefully it'll work out!

  7. Kale surprise indeed!
    I can I just say, I love that you refer to kale as your 'friend with benefits' x