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Jan 14, 2008 11:55 AM

Spicing things up in Montpellier?

My brother just arrived in Montpellier, France, for a semester abroad. He loves to cook but is flabbergasted by how expensive France is and how hard it is to find ways to spice up his meals.

I know that in Montpellier there's a strong North African influence, so surely there must be some place to buy the spices used in that cuisine. Does anyone know where he could find these?

Also, does anyone have suggestions for affordable cooking ingredients? I already posted about cheese. What else there is a good source of food for students, especially protein?

He's not able to post himself, since his internet's so dodgy right now. I will gratefully pass on any suggestions you have. Thanks!

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  1. I'm not familiar with the different neighbourhoods in Montpellier, but I'm sure he would be able to get spices etc from local shops in areas where lots of Algerians live. If not, Bezier isn't far and seems to have a higher proportion of people of North African origin, so maybe he could try the more North African neighbourhood just off the main drag going through the centre of town.

    Having said all of this, you can get spices in some of the larger markets across the region. For example, Lodeve has a big Saturday market with a couple of Algerian stalls selling olives, tapenades and all the spices you would need. Lodeve is a bit far for him to go, but I'm sure Montpellier must have at least one big weekly market. The supermarkets also sell spices - not as wide ranging as in Britain, but there are more available than I expected.

    The thing about food shopping in France is that meat is more expensive there than in Britain, and you can clean yourself out just buying the cuts you would normally cook with at home. It's also best to eat seasonally - so that you are not spending lots of money on out of season veg. French people eat much more seasonally than us in Britain, and tend to cook with the cheaper cuts of meat (and aren't as squeamish as us when it comes to innards and brains etc.) and save the expensive ones for special occasions. So my suggestion is to go for the cheaper meats, eat what's in season, eat less meat and splash out once in a while.

    2 Replies
    1. re: Theresa

      Thank you for the suggestions--I'll pass them along. We are from the US, where meat is incredibly cheap (however, seafood is quite expensive, even in coastal areas) and where the prices of most fruits and veggies stay stable year-round. My brother's a steadfast carnivore, so while it's too bad that meat is so expensive in France, he's probably willing to try some offal so he can have a break from cheese and couscous. In fact, organ meats have gotten trendy in recent years here, so he can jump on the culinary bandwagon with that.

      1. re: tasmonia

        He may not need to live on offal - other things like oxtail, stewing steak, belly pork etc will also be better value, and popular with committed carnivores...

    2. He should be able to find produce at the chain supermarkets. Poultry, pre-packaged from big supermache is usually affordable in France. Beans play a part in local cuisine. Canned stuff....cassoulet, choucroute (as is or as the base for adding extras).