More About Food in Lyon

If I ever form a rock band, I will name it Trio de Poissons

If I ever form a rock band, I will name it Trio de Poissons

On Tuesday, Dave went off to work with Augustin at IARC, the International Agency for Research in Cancer. Pamela and I set off for my favorite place in Lyon: the Paul Bocuse Food Hall. Paul Bocuse is the French chef famous for helping to start the “nouvelle cuisine” movement. The Culinary Institute of America renamed one of its restaurants in his honor, and one of the most prestigious chef awards in the world is also named for him.

The food hall is a collection of food-related businesses: patisseries, butcher shops, chocolate shops, produce shops, restaurants, wine shops, cheese shops.

I treat it like a museum where everything happens to be for sale, a museum where most of the artifacts will change color and/or start to smell bad and turn toxic if they are on display for too long. But I suspect nothing stays on display too long, because it is too beautiful and tempting – although in some cases it is also hideously overpriced.

desserts

Pamela and I walked from the apartment to the food hall, which is a little more than 2 km away. En route we passed a store called Bahadourian, which I remembered from my last visit to Lyon; there is a Bahadourian inside the food hall, but this was a freestanding store.

Pamela and I went in to explore. I was quite fascinated by the industrial-sized bags of paprika and curry powder, not to mention the industrial-sized paella cooker, which looked like a stainless steel bird bath for a bald eagle.

These are the giant bags of spices. There is no picture of the paella cooker. My evocative description will have to suffice.

These are the giant bags of spices. There is no picture of the paella cooker. My evocative description will have to suffice.

I thought about buying some Turkish delight, which I’d bought last time. It was €13.99 per kilo, a relatively reasonable price. But there was nobody behind the candy counter. After a while Pamela and I gave up. I figured if I wanted Turkish delight I could buy it at the Bahadourian store at the food hall.

So you can imagine my surprise (or perhaps you cannot) when we discovered that at the food hall, Bahadourian sells (what I am positive is) the exact same Turkish delight for €29.99 a kilo. Talk about tourist-gouging.

At this price I will fly to Turkey and buy the stuff fresh, thank you very much

At this price I will fly to Turkey and buy the stuff fresh, thank you very much

I did, however, permit myself to be tourist-gouged at a cheese shop, where I saw a lovely looking piece of cheese that looked a bit like a doll-sized football, a bit like a dinner roll from the bulk bin at Superstore, and a bit like a card holder for a bread-baker. Sprigs of dried thyme rested festively in a crevice its middle.

The price read €6.20, which I ignorantly assumed meant €6.20 per kilo, although “per kilo” was written nowhere, which should have clued me in. But no, I was nonetheless shocked to discover that this weeny little piece of thyme cheese cost as much as two sandwiches at the Monoprix lunch counter. I paid for it anyway, because the salesman was so snooty I was too intimidated to protest. At least it tasted good.

Cheese that looks like cavatelli, stuffed with sprigs of dried thyme and priced to discourage shoppers accustomed to buying their Cracker Barrel on sale at Save-On foods

After we left the food hall, Pamela and I walked through a farmer’s market, where there was also a cheese stall. We saw the some of the exact same cheeses as at the snooty cheese place, but for nearly one-sixth the price. We didn’t see any of the thyme cheese, so I didn’t have to torment myself as badly as I might have otherwise.

We also saw these beautiful tomatoes at the farmer's market.

We also saw these beautiful tomatoes at the farmer’s market.

What I find most pleasing about the food hall — the reason I love visiting — is the aesthetic value. The food is displayed so lovingly, as if it’s meant to be stared at, admired, lusted after — not fried or spread or sliced or beaten into submission. It’s so far removed from what confronts shoppers at Superstore or Stop & Shop or Wegman’s or Kroger’s or Vons or Pik ‘n’ Save or wherever we purchase the stuff to stock our larders that I sometimes find it hard to believe that it’s really, at its most basic level, simply food.

Neon desserts. Scary but impossible to ignore.

Neon desserts. Scary but impossible to ignore.

Beautiful cheeses

Beautiful cheeses

Pretzels at a butcher's stall

Pretzels at a butcher’s stall

The French national food

The French national food

Sometimes the displays are a little too art-y, as I found to be the case with much of the poultry in the butcher stalls. But I imagine if food were displayed that way in North America, we’d have a lot more vegetarians, and we can’t do that to the military-industrial-complex meat producers now, can we?

Look! It's chickens with their heads cut off!

Look! It’s chickens with their heads cut off!

Guinea fowl

Guinea fowl

Who eats this stuff???

Who eats this stuff???

And this?

And this?

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