I first saw Picards back in May when we got back from Brisbane — we were noting some changes in the neighborhood: part of a fancy furniture store became a pharmacy. The Pressbyrån hut on the walking path that sold snacks and magazines now has a construction chrysalis, and we are waiting to see what will emerge. But the most strange and intriguing change was the underwear shop, metamorphosed into a Picards frozen food store.
Matt thinks I’m naïve, but I have never ever stumbled across anything quite like this. Yes, maybe Trader Joe’s, with its aisles of frozen upscale treats. But even they have fresh food, as well as what was once called dry goods (soap, towels, etc.). This store contains nothing but freezers.
And oh how those freezers are filled! You walk in and start to follow the maze, past frozen elk meat, salmon steaks cut like bricks, bags of pre-cut fries, pre-made sauces, complete meals, filets of fish and scallops from the Atlantic *and* the Pacific, with and without roe. Turn the corner and find amuse bouches of vegetable appetizers, tiny galettes and chocolate cakes, frozen deluxe ice cream cones, Bonne Maman ice cream, and more — everything the elite might need to whip together a fabulous meal for friends, or host a party at home, here in Östermalm.
Or to pack your freezer with convenient food. It reminds me of living with my parents: a big deep freezer in the garage, stacked with meat and frozen meals, purchased at the grocery or from CostCo in bulk. Only, we have a tiny little fridge that holds quite a lot less than, say, my dad’s double-wide chest freezer that would fit an entire side of beef.
We stopped by Picards yesterday on a whim and came home with two grocery bags’ full; now our freezer is stacked and packed to the very top. We even bought tiny little cartons of frozen basil and chopped ginger, and bags of chopped onions.
What a conundrum! “Fresh frozen”! It’s not that we couldn’t find almost all the same food fresh at the mall’s Sabis with its deluxe fresh fish and meat counters, or even cobble something together from the Hemköp across the street. But oh wow, the temptation of all this seemingly high-end fresh frozen food!
The brochure we picked up from our first shopping spree at Picards (that brick salmon, some fries, scallops, bacon-wrapped green beans) reassured us that the food is all from France, but the salmon we bought the first time we went in was definitely farmed somewhere offshore of Ireland; the scallops were raised in Chile or Peru. Who knows where the beans are from. So, the food all travels through France, where it is prepared to be frozen and shipped.
We found that the shop opened to great fanfare while we were away — one of the ice sculptors responsible for the ice hotel up north in Kiruna made an Eiffel Tour in negative space inside a giant ice block. They have another shop in a nearby neighborhood and plan to open 50 — FIFTY! — other stores in Sweden.
How convenient! How tasty! How nutritious! Frozen food maintains its nutrients, better than canned or pre-cooked foods. You can even get that little frisson of cooking, after you’ve defrosted it. It’s even not that expensive, it seems.
But dear me, why does it feel like cheating? Or somehow, not like real food? I have drawn at least one line in the sand against the convenience of Picards: we will never, EVER buy the packaged pancake brunch. The idea of abdicating such a simple chore of mixing pancake batter and frying pancakes to faceless producers somewhere in France and my microwave is really… horrifying. It’s just plain lazy — pancake and waffle batter are some of the easiest things to make. Plus, I suspect that they wouldn’t taste as good as fresh homemade pancakes anyway.