When I lived in Paris, I was always asking American friends to bring me maple syrup, cream cheese and Grape Nuts, all hard to come by in France. Now that I live in New York, it's the French supermarket staples I miss. I always have my list ready in case anyone I know is planning a trip to Europe; any brand will do.
Some of my favorites are verveine (verbena), tilleul (linden blossom) and fraise-cassis (strawberry and black currant).
Herbes De Provence
This blend of dried thyme, rosemary, summer savory and bay leaves is used in Provençal stews and grilled foods. It's amazingly hard to find in the U.S.
The herbs essential for pot-au-feu and boeuf bourguignon (parsley, bay leaf and thyme) come dried in sachets that look like tea bags, so they're easy to remove.
French supermarkets sell white and mixed (pink, green, white and black) peppercorns in disposable mills.
Lentilles Du Puy
I love these tiny green lentils from the remote Auvergne because they keep their shape when cooked. They are especially good simmered in wine with garlic sausage.
These pale green dried beans shaped like a fingernail go with roast lamb like jelly goes with peanut butter.
The mustard made for the U.S. market lacks the nose-assaulting bite of the stuff sold in France.
French mayonnaise often comes in tubes; it's not sweet like the American version and tastes more like homemade.
Packets of this French housewife's staple can be found in the baking section of the supermarket. It's great sprinkled on French toast, over fruit tarts, or in café au lait.