Friday, August 5, 2011

Beef- it's what's for dinner

Anybody remember that old ad? In my case, it's true because I bought an insane amount of beef from the butcher's today. It's one of those embarassing foreigner moments that I thought was behind me after nearly nine years in France. Like the time I thought the waitress hadn't yet given the chef our order because she'd left the ticket on the table. So I asked if I could change and in fact she was a bit put out because they'd already started preparing the meal. Or, different country but same dilemma, in Holland when I thought I was walking into a regular café. When I asked if they were serving, the lady looked at me strangely and said no, despite the presence of other "customers". The only thing I can figure out was that it was in fact kind of a homeless shelter.

But apparently even knowing the language well doesn't mean you'll glide through every situation. Like today when I decided to check out the "hard discount" supermarket. Or as the French say, "ahrd diss-KOONT". Yes, they sometimes inexplicably use English terms for stuff. Then when you ask them what a "discount" means in English class, they don't know.

For those of you who don't know the concept, this type of supermarket is a no-frills place where the food is supposed to be quite cheap, in part because they don't spend much money at all on ads on TV, they don't play music in the store, and the merchandise is just put on fairly basic shelving. You don't find too many brands either. I checked out ALDI today, which I think you can also find in the US. There I was all proud of myself to get out of the store for only about 42 euros minus most of the meat. There was an in-house butcher for that. So I stood in line and waited my turn to ask about beef for a beer stew recipe (carbonnade) I've been wanting to try.

I'd written down the quantity of meat needed (1.5 kilograms) and the cuts that could be used. But I couldn't find my list right away and just mentioned the recipe and amount I needed. The saleswoman suggested the "gîte" meat, and I said, ok. Someone in the back started cutting it and then she brought it out and weighed it. It was 1.8 kg in fact, and as I saw the price per kilo come up, my eyes literally popped out of my head. 25 euros! Yikes. I mentioned that this looked like a lot of meat, and she volunteered to remove some. At first I said, no, then I said, on second thought, yes, please. So she brought it down to 1.2 kg and 18 euros.

Even though I did work in a lab and should feel at ease with metric, I guess I had a brain fart today. Because 1.2 kilos is a bout 2.6 pounds. That's a lot of beef, people! Even for a big recipe for six people (which is apparently the number of people my recipe can serve, if I'd looked more closely). But I'm also going to blame it on not knowing all these cuts of meat (gîte à la noix is in fact top rump) and the fact that the price wasn't displayed in front of me when she suggested this particular kind.

Luckily, after nine years, I take these things a little more in stride (despite a brief urge to run to the car and cry). Even when I heard the saleswoman ask her boss discreetly if it was ok that they were putting back some meat, I thought, well, better that I do this than end up with a colossal amount of meat in my freezer. In the end I think I'll just freeze half and prepare the other half for three people.

And next time I will certainly ask the price before!


Crystal said...

And this is why I don't eat red meat lol.

I never buy anything from a 'traiteur' type shop without knowing the price first because I've been had before. I'm too embarrassed to say 'no' when I realize the price is a lot more than I was expecting, so I just end up buying and spending too much (happened with salmon filets not too long ago). Luckily you can freeze meat so it wont go to waste! Good luck with the carbonnade!

Anonymous said...

carbonnade - drool drool. yummy.

As a rule, 200g of meat per person is fine for something like carbonnade.

I am clueless for cuts of meat in France (so thanks for gîte translation). I try to learn and ask my belle mère where X cut comes from when she's cooking but she has no idea! I feel dumb in French! I know this stuff in English. grrr.

Lindle said...

That's a lot of meat for your teeny-tiny freezer! You'll have to eat lots of meatballs, meatloaf, enchiladas, and stroganoff to make it disappear! Live and learn! Chalk it up to a funny moment!