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Orbit

French Food Culture

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I just got back from two weeks in Paris, and while intellectually I knew the French breed vegetables for taste where Americans breed for size, color, and ship-ability, that two weeks really brought the extent of the difference home. While I was there I wasn't eating haute cuisine. I was eating in working class cafes and modest brasseries and there are so many things I wish I could change in US food culture. In the cafes, a wider choice of meats routinely appeared on the menu. For example, duck and lamb rarely appear on a US diner or "regular" restaurant menu, but they were always choices in the cafes/brasseries. My husband had the best Duck Magret of his life in an unassuming Montmartre cafe.

 

The other revelation was the vegetables. Note to America: lettuce is not a texture; it has flavor! All of the vegetables-- even the out of season tomatoes-- had flavor. I looked forward to vegetables in a way I never did at home. Is there any way of achieving this in the US? Is it possible, or is the status quo too entrenched?

 

A word about airline food: The food on the Delta flight out was horrendous, extremely salty, awful, inedible. The food on the Air France flight back actually tasted like food; a nicely sauced pasta and the veggies tasted fresh. This tells me that airline food doesn't have to be awful. So why is it so terrible?

 

And although McDonald's exists in the heavily-touristed areas of Paris, fast food is actually pretty hard to find in Paris as a whole, which I think is a great thing. Is there any hope for the US food producing industries to change their ways, or will we always be stuck with the mediocre national food culture?

 

 

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The biggest problem in all of this is the consumer.  As long as the consumer is willing to buy and eat tasteless, out-of-season vegetables, producers are only too happy to provide them.  I live in the eastern part of Canada and I do not buy out of season fruit that is shipped here from, say, California.  Those huge oversized strawberries for example, have no flavour and yet, even when local strawberries come to market, I still see people buying imported strawberries in their clam shells.  Peaches arrive hard as rocks and no, they don't ripen on the counter.  They get mushy, but they do not ripen,  and yet there is a market for them.  So until there are enough consumers refusing to buy the tasteless stuff, it will continue to be offered for sale.


Edited by ElsieD changed calm shell to clam (log)
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I think the problem is that the consumers quite literally don't know what they're missing because they have nothing to compare it to. It's so depressing to think this will most likely never change because there is no way to educate consumers. :(

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Orbit - Did you know before you went to France?

 

One good long shtf event in the US and perhaps those who remain alive will begin to understand the value in 'growing your own' (preferably from heirloom seeds). Even people living in small apartments CAN grow some things year round - but most don't. Too easy to go to the store, a fast food joint or order in takeout pizza, etc. For many here, food gets most of its taste from additives it seems - and many don't even realize that. They don't read labels, price and convenience are all they care about, they prefer processed foods, they are addicted to salt and sugar, and they eat on the run.

 

The lifestyle in many places abroad is very different - still much slower than ours in North America. In many places over there, people actually still eat together as a family, shop locally almost every day, walk to the store in many cases, know everyone in their communities, and have lives still based on traditions that most Americans don't even remember any more. Our cultures are vastly different unfortunately.

 

There are pockets of sanity in the US/North America but I think they are mostly in rural areas and smaller communities.

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Things are not quite so dire here in Southern California. The local farmers market is a zoo of joyful shoppers even at the Tuesday morning market - packed!  The farmers know their produce and happily discuss it. CSAs thrive. School gardens re more common than not. 

 

I think money is a factor - we are used to cheap food in the US and especially for a certain segment of the population that grew up with cans and convenience there is not a respect and desire for excellent tastes.  Thankfully having a huge immigrant population here in Los Angeles has sharpened eaters craving for tasty food versus just something to fill your stomach.

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6 hours ago, Orbit said:

In the cafes, a wider choice of meats routinely appeared on the menu. For example, duck and lamb rarely appear on a US diner or "regular" restaurant menu, but they were always choices in the cafes/brasseries. My husband had the best Duck Magret of his life in an unassuming Montmartre cafe.

 

 

I think the US' meat habit comes in part from having Texas, Nebraska, Colorado, Wyoming - lots of space for beef cattle to range.  France is the size and latitude of Oregon - also know for its lamb and ducks.  Farming is probably on a bit smaller scale there, and you can fit more ducks than cows on a few hectares, and they are more suited to the climate. 


Edited by pastrygirl latitude (log)
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Good food isn't difficult to find in my area, one just needs to seek it out or grow/make it yourself.

 

9 hours ago, Orbit said:

Note to America: lettuce is not a texture; it has flavor!

 

Yeah, there's more to lettuce than Iceberg or Romaine.

There are hundreds of lettuce cultivars available.

Many examples here.

 

3 hours ago, pastrygirl said:

France is the size of Oregon

.

FWIW, I'd say closer to the size of Texas — but more than twice as many people.

 


Edited by DiggingDogFarm (log)

~Martin :)

I try to find the good food in every situation!

Unsupervised, rebellious, radical agrarian experimenter, minimalist penny-pincher, self-reliant homesteader, and adventurous cook. Crotchety, cantankerous, terse, curmudgeon, non-conformist, and contrarian who questions everything!

The best thing about a vegetable garden is all the meat you can hunt and trap out of it!

 

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1 hour ago, DiggingDogFarm said:

Good food isn't difficult to find in my area, one just needs to seek it out or grow it yourself.

 

Call me a crazy pedant, but I think that if you have to seek it out, or grow it yourself, it qualifies as difficult to find.

 

But I think we (the U.S.) are going through a positive change right now.  We're starting to adopt more European attitudes.  But we don't yet have the experience to back it up. 

 


Edited by IndyRob (log)
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13 minutes ago, IndyRob said:

Call me a crazy pedant, but I think that if you have to seek it out, or grow it yourself, it qualifies as difficult to find.

 

 

 

Nah, not really....farmer's markets, direct from a farmer, artisanal bakery, cheesemaker, creamery, winery, micro-brewery, etc. rather that a typical grocery store or like.

Or, a decent restaurant rather than ubiquitous fast food, a trashy greasy spoon, filthy truck stop or nasty hole-in-the-wall.

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~Martin :)

I try to find the good food in every situation!

Unsupervised, rebellious, radical agrarian experimenter, minimalist penny-pincher, self-reliant homesteader, and adventurous cook. Crotchety, cantankerous, terse, curmudgeon, non-conformist, and contrarian who questions everything!

The best thing about a vegetable garden is all the meat you can hunt and trap out of it!

 

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That's the problem.  We think that just because something comes from a small farmer, a farmer's market, a micro-brewery, we think it's good.

 

That is BS.  It's not.  That's not to say that none of it is, and the people that are producing those exceptional products are being lost in the mix.

 

The worst offenders, IMHO, right now are the micro-breweries and brew pubs.  The craft beer crap.  I love it that many people are experimenting with beer, but most of those experiments have not been successful (but must be marketed)l.  Guinness is successful - has been for a long time.  And it's actually cheaper now than almost all of these craft beers.  We need more Guinness and less Harvey's Hoppity Hop Double Chili Ale.

 

We are not producing prosciutto di parma, Roquefort, brie, camembert, etc.  We think 'local' is a solution without understanding 'terroir' or 'craft' or 'good'. 

 

It's not enough to be local, artisanal, micro, craft, or whatever.  You have to be good.

 

California has proven that this can be done with wines.  Wisconsin with cheeses.    But there are crap wine and cheese makers in both those places.

 

I guess it does go back to the consumer.

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Who said that it's all good?

I certainly didn't.

There's 'crap' everywhere — hence the need to seek out what's 'good.'

What's 'good' and what's 'crap' is subjective.

To each his own.

 


~Martin :)

I try to find the good food in every situation!

Unsupervised, rebellious, radical agrarian experimenter, minimalist penny-pincher, self-reliant homesteader, and adventurous cook. Crotchety, cantankerous, terse, curmudgeon, non-conformist, and contrarian who questions everything!

The best thing about a vegetable garden is all the meat you can hunt and trap out of it!

 

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I think there is an extreme dichotomy and some mythology going on here. I have encountered lousy food in Europe and great food in the US. And wonderful food in Europe and awful, inedible food in the US. (However, after spending quite a bit of time in Germany and Austria, if anyone offers me a potato dumpling I will probably throw it at them. But that's just me.) The mythology does have a thread of reality - but wander through European supermarkets whether in Germany, France or the UK and you will find a lot of the same (often processed) foods you see in American supermarkets. And many American farmer's markets - now present in many towns even as small as mine - have offerings of wonderful fresh veggies and fruit. I think that idealizing one countries cuisine over another's neglects the  normal (as opposed to tourist) experience. 

 

And, I would add, some of my best meals in American and European cities were in hole-in-the-wall restaurants. Thanks to my daughter who is brilliant at seeking them out. 


Edited by ElainaA (log)
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If you have a garden and a library, you have everything you need. Cicero

But the library must contain cookbooks. Elaina

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3 hours ago, DiggingDogFarm said:

 

FWIW, I'd say closer to the size of Texas — but more than twice as many people.

 

 

 

Thanks for the correction.  But France still doesn't have the vast range and prairie lands we have that facilitate pumping out cheap beef for everyone.  Even if there are more feedlots than cattle drives, cattle are inefficient and growing feed corn takes space too.

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There is often something 'magical' about a trip to Europe, especially if it is your first time. And for many, there is a built-in mystique about Paris no doubt (though personally I would rather ramble the countryside of France and skip Paris entirely). One is bound to both feel and see some differences in the culture and the food - especially if you are smart enough not to stay at the 'Ritz' and eat at Mickey D's (in which case, why leave home?). The 'differences' from one's everyday life no doubt cloud perception to some extent. One's senses are heightened in a foreign land and I am sure in the backs of our minds at least it is difficult not to compare it to what we know about 'back home'. At any rate, there IS that bias to overcome.

 

Globalism is taking its toll everywhere however. We are witnessing the homogenization of the world in process. I fear the 'Paris' of today will not exist much longer. (As ElainaA says - check the grocery stores for processed foods! :().

 

We are beyond fusion now - at least in North America and I think it is probably sneaking up to that point in many countries around the world. I wish in 'levelling the playing field' that the powers that be would aim for excellence, but, they are quite satisfied for most of us to have mediocrity unfortunately.

 

I am happy I won't live long enough (I hope) to really see that process completed. But, while I am here, I will rage, rage, rage against the night and feel fortunate that I know what to look for and/or how to grow and cook the most wholesome, fresh, tasty foods I can. If I want to, I can produce in my own kitchen most of the foods (or very close facsimiles) that distinguish Paris or Thailand or Japan or Israel or Holland or Greece or ... you name it. The ambience will probably not be as perfect a replica but .. I came for the food. :) 


Edited by Deryn (log)
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27 minutes ago, Deryn said:

There is often something 'magical' about a trip to Europe, especially if it is your first time. And for many, there is a built-in mystique about Paris no doubt (though personally I would rather ramble the countryside of France and skip Paris entirely). One is bound to both feel and see some differences in the culture and the food - especially if you are smart enough not to stay at the 'Ritz' and eat at Mickey D's (in which case, why leave home?). The 'differences' from one's everyday life no doubt cloud perception to some extent. One's senses are heightened in a foreign land and I am sure in the backs of our minds at least it is difficult not to compare it to what we know about 'back home'. At any rate, there IS that bias to overcome.

 

Globalism is taking its toll everywhere however. We are witnessing the homogenization of the world in process. I fear the 'Paris' of today will not exist much longer. (As ElainaA says - check the grocery stores for processed foods! :().

 

We are beyond fusion now - at least in North America and I think it is probably sneaking up to that point in many countries around the world. I wish in 'levelling the playing field' that the powers that be would aim for excellence, but, they are quite satisfied for most of us to have mediocrity unfortunately.

 

I am happy I won't live long enough (I hope) to really see that process completed. But, while I am here, I will rage, rage, rage against the night and feel fortunate that I know what to look for and/or how to grow and cook the most wholesome, fresh, tasty foods I can. If I want to, I can produce in my own kitchen most of the foods (or very close facsimiles) that distinguish Paris or Thailand or Japan or Israel or Holland or Greece or ... you name it. The ambience will probably not be as perfect a replica but .. I came for the food. :) 

 

I hope the prognosis is not that grim. I do know that I've had the ability and opportunity to try  and regularly enjoy many more foods than were ever available in the mid-20th-century rural South in which I grew up. I never had pizza beyond the ChefBoyArDee in the box kit variety until I was a teenager. And while I'll eat sushi in the US, it can't compare to what I had in Japan (or at least, never has to date). I'm encouraged to see the increasing interest in GOOD food, whether local vegetables and meats I cook at home or five-star cuisine with ingredients flown in daily from half a world away.

 

I'm encouraged that schools are offering credit for gardening and raising vegetables and livestock. I'm encouraged that farmers' markets are THE place to be in the summer, and that so many people anxiously await the opening weekend. I'm encouraged that fast-food consumption is dropping, at least a little, and that we are at least aware of the fact there are better alternatives out there. I'm encouraged that there's such a growing movement toward teaching younger generations the skills needed to acquire and prepare healthy meals (my church is holding a class on just this topic later this summer through Cooking Matters/Share Out Strength, the national hunger relief charity). 

 

I'm 60 years old. All in all, I probably eat as healthily, and with a lot more flavor and variety, than I did growing up on the farm half a century ago. That, to me, says we're at least making a FEW advances. And if given the chance to travel, whether domestically or abroad, and sample the regional cuisines from the local, non-guidebook, not chain establishments, be assured I will do so in a heartbeat.

 

It's been my experience, so far, there are a good many opportunities for good food still out there. I hope, and think, there will be for a long time, here and abroad.

 

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Don't ask. Eat it.

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I also think food culture is moving slowly in a better direction in this country.

 

It is led by educated consumers in spite of the obstacles erected by our Big Ag lobby, and government's willingness to roll over for them. There are so many things in our mainstream food that are banned outright in the EU. The resistance by Big Ag to even properly label foods shows that they know they will lose revenue if consumers are informed.

 

Walmart is responding with more organic produce and natural foods. Even fast food outlets are making changes by removing unnatural ingredients and offering healthier choices, as customers vote with their feet and wallets.

 

If one has plenty of money and time, it's possible to get natural whole foods outside the mainstream. What is most heartening to me is that we continue to see major changes in that mainstream, which is going to benefit a lot more of us. When the huge fast food giants move to cage free eggs, antibiotic, hormone-free meats, less additives, and so on, it will affect what we buy in the grocery store, because they are using such a huge chunk of what is consumed in this country. It will take time, especially with the government efforts to impede it, but in the end we are capitalist country. Big companies have already changed for the better because they are interested in helping their bottom line. The consumer movement for healthier, more wholesome foods will win out, I think. More folks are getting on board every day. We have a long way to go, but all is not lost.

 

That said, from what I've read about it, it's much easier in France or Italy to find top quality ingredients for your dinner than it is here.


Edited by Thanks for the Crepes (log)
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> ^ . . ^ <

 

 

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Certainly one can eat well and at a reasonable price in Paris.  Over the past twenty or so years however the French have developed a vast supply chain providing what appear to be family bistros with ready to reheat meals.  There have been numerous documentaries on the difficulty of finding truly 'home' cooked meals, especially in Paris.  There is a movement now created to identify those restaurants or bistros that do their cooking more or less from scratch.  You might have seen this organisation's logo in certain restaurant windows or menu boards.  Length of menu can be another good indicator, a small place with few staff is unlikely to create dishes from scratch if the menu is huge.

 

As to fast food, Mcdonalds is extremely well represented in Paris and throughout the provinces. It is comparatively expensive when measured alongside smaller 'plat du jour' restaurants.  I recall that 8 years ago when living and working in France we were given 10€ per day to buy lunch, usually the main meal of the day in France.  At the time my 10€ would allow me to buy a three course lunch in a local bistro.  One if the girls I worked with suggested we go to McDonald's one day for a change.  We did but the 10€ didn't cover the price of 1 X burger and fries and 1 X drink.  

 

I'm sure I read somewhere that Paris has more McD's than any other city, I'll try to remember the source of that info.  In addition there are home grown fast food chains: Buffalo Grill (steak/fries) Quick (burgers) spring to mind, also a chain that sells variants on a baked potato (lots of profit potential, one can only eat so much potato).  

 

French supermarkets resemble those in England more each year.  When we first started spending topi me in France there were no breakfast cereals for example, now there are aisles of them, just like in England.

 

Of course one can eat well in France with relative ease.  There is still pride in local ingredients but for many such items have become ruinously expensive.  Supermarkets throw out stacks of unsold fresh goods every day.  There was a group of people who would visit the bins of these places at night, recuperate anything edible and distribute it to those in need.  To prevent this, supermarkets began pouring bleach over their waste food.  Again this waste attracted media attention, there was a series of programmes last year in which chefs with Michelin stars or MOF collars cooked vast amounts of food that had been considered waste.

 

As others have said before, the best way to have good tasting fruit and veg is to grow your own, so much can be grown in very little space, even in pots on a windowsill.  Meat is expensive in France but people still use parts of an animal rejected by others, particularly the English, such as liver, kidneys, tongue, brain.  

 

Great that Orbit had a good holiday in France, it was most interesting to read about the airline food and to know that on long haul flights Air France still serves edible meals.  While I am old enough to remember good food on shorter Air France flights these are long gone, at least for those of us not willing to pay for a first class seat.

 

If you want to learn more about current food trends in France there are numerous documentaries and cooking shows available through YouTube.  Capital have done good food based analyses,  as have Cash Investigation.  Petitrenaud produces a weekly programme about food cultures across France, these are often well filmed and put together.  

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Thanks for the Crepes and kayb - I agree that, on the micro level, and for some of the world's population, there have been/are/and will be (for quite some time), benefits from globalisation. Those of us who care have been exposed to so many more food cultures and ingredients than we ever had access to before. 'Our' world, in the short term, has been enriched. Believe me, I think those of us in North America are actually the truly lucky ones right now - we are getting probably the most real benefit for the time being. And we who frequent places like eGullet probably have benefitted most - because we have enquiring minds about foods, techniques and ingredients from around the world and are eager to try new things - and to notice, applaud, and want to experience different cultures, even if vicariously, through food.

 

This is not necessarily true for the 'masses' though. The world's population continues to grow (so more to feed), the availability of good farming land decreases, the quality of the dirt decreases as time goes on (leading to fewer actual nutrients in the food - growing controversy ... is your food really as nutritious as it used to be, as the labels purport it to be, even if it smells/looks/tastes good?), more and more chemicals are used to prop up poor soils, shorten growing times and increase yields, fish that is still affordable for many is farmed and plied with antibiotics or captured from polluted waters, trade agreements mean that we no longer really know where many foods come from and how they were grown, etc., and what used to be locally produced and quickly consumed (i.e. fresh) foods are being shipped back and forth around the world for 'processing' purposes, now possible because of faster and cheaper transportation and 'preservatives' (both with 'additives' and with preservation 'techniques' to keep foods looking fresh or have them arrive at your store not looking as though they travelling thousands of miles from their place of origin). The small producer is, over time, being shut out while corporate conglomerates with the real power and money take deeper hold on the food world - and the food of the world - with profit as their motivator.

 

Even in the western world, cities (by government and corporate design) get larger and larger and as they do, the people in them, while it seems some can and will always find a way to access 'farmer's markets' or grow their own indoors, are 'moved' further and further away from the source of their foods. Busy lives mean that people eat on the run - and many no longer know how to cook. There are always exceptions to the rules of course - we get mini-trend bumps (back to the earth organic and 'fresh to your door' food 'kits') but the long term trends don't look that good to me. Most don't have the time, inclination, training or place to try growing their own - and many (most) young people no longer even have memories of anyone in their families doing that. They rely on media to tell them what is 'good to eat' and where to find it. I wish it were the case, but I don't think that most people are even able to participate in a food revolution and go back to the future. Their heads are buried in their iPhones and they are, more than they know, controlled in almost every aspect of their lives. I'd like to be optimistic but it is difficult when one actually pays attention to what is happening around the world.

 

Countries like India now have KFC's. Mickey D's and Burger Kings abound in places around the world where one would never have imagined they might - and whole groups of people around the globe who have never had obesity and related issues are getting fatter as they lose their unique traditions and lifestyles and slowly adopt ours. There are very few isolated/insulated cultures any more. Even in Paris, the stores are filled with more processed foods than ever before. I am pretty sure that is the case in many other cities and countries around the world these days. We are as much spreading (the not so good parts of) our culture to places where the lifestyle, while perhaps 'poor' in some of our eyes, was for generations rich in healthy eating because of their unique local diets and flora, as they are bringing the best of theirs to us. And unfortunately, I suspect that our influence abroad will be longer lasting and more pervasive than theirs will be here. As people move around the world, while at first they bring their traditions and enrich our lives, in time those are diluted and modified, as they integrate and assimilate and have to use ingredients and cooking techniques, etc. easily available to them in whatever new place they now inhabit.

 

Everyone is equal now is being interpreted to mean that everyone must be, eat, learn, think, grow the 'same'. Watch the trends in other areas of our lives - 'differences' are becoming anathema, not advantages to be admired and celebrated and preserved. Yes, there is a major battle in progress that can make that seem otherwise but in the end the greater goal is actually homogeneity. To say more about that here would be too 'political' so I won't go there but I don't think we will all be richer for it in the future. Personal opinion, but I don't happen to think globalism is necessarily a 'good thing', especially when all of us (in the food arena) over time will have to move towards the lowest common denominator - processed foods and foods from depleted soils - most likely. Not perhaps in my generation or my children's generation or even their children's ... but we are moving in that direction.

 

Some will always eat well - no matter what - but that number will be fewer and fewer over time I suspect. The continuum to me looks as though in time the pendulum, barring a major world reset, will swing back to mediocrity ... Chef Boyardee (in North America) > true Italian sauces and homemade pastas (in Italy and then in many places around the world) > Chef Boyardee (everywhere). I am not sure it is in the 'power of ordinary people' to change this any more. But, I truly hope I am wrong!

 

Anyway .. perhaps this is a subject for another thread. I had no intent to derail. Back to Paris. I am glad that Orbit and her husband were able to have this eye-opening experience there - and to savour at least some of the uniqueness of what is left of the European food culture. Viva la difference! :) 

 

 


Edited by Deryn (log)
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I get the impression that the whole "frozen dinners reheated by 70% of restaurants" thing is wildly exaggerated.  Firstly, what is considered a restaurant can be anything from a bistrot to a McDonald's to a corporate or school canteen.  Secondly, the documentary looked at restaurants that brought in "ready meals or frozen ingredients".  You can include frozen ingredients into high-quality dishes.  In fact, all of the major pastry places in France and around the world rely on frozen purées, etc.

 

I can only really compare France with the UK, but from what I've seen, there tends to be a similar level of quality at both the cheapest and most expensive restaurants in both countries.  The major difference seems to be in the mid-range, where you're much more likely to eat well here than across the Channel.

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1 hour ago, Deryn said:

This is not necessarily true for the 'masses' though. The world's population continues to grow (so more to feed), the availability of good farming land decreases, the quality of the dirt decreases as time goes on (leading to fewer actual nutrients in the food - growing controversy ... is your food really as nutritious as it used to be, as the labels purport it to be, even if it smells/looks/tastes good?), more and more chemicals are used to prop up poor soils, shorten growing times and increase yields, fish that is still affordable for many is farmed and plied with antibiotics or captured from polluted waters, trade agreements mean that we no longer really know where many foods come from and how they were grown, etc., and what used to be locally produced and quickly consumed (i.e. fresh) foods are being shipped back and forth around the world for 'processing' purposes, now possible because of faster and cheaper transportation and 'preservatives' (both with 'additives' and with preservation 'techniques' to keep foods looking fresh or have them arrive at your store not looking as though they travelling thousands of miles from their place of origin). The small producer is, over time, being shut out while corporate conglomerates with the real power and money take deeper hold on the food world - and the food of the world - with profit as their motivator.

 

I too don't want to go astray. but I just wanted to hold this post up for special recognition; I feel it is one of the best statements of the problem that we have, and it's everywhere.  Unless and until we refuse to see the earth as inert, dead material to stick things into to merely hold them up while they grow by false economies and long term devastation, we'll continue to see the world's living capacity shrink, all to cries of "we need to optimize more, and so....intensify production, pay them to do it!" - and agribusiness is only too happy to reap the false-market reward. 

 

There's a ton more, but that is definitely the subject for another thread.  I live in a very farm-to-table community, with a strong farmers' market; but I will say, in agreement with IndyRob, small and local does not mean it's of necessity going to be top quality.  There's a reason Point, Bocuse et al roamed the stalls to pick out the best for their respective place, because although they were all local, some produced better asparagus better than the others. I find it's the same here. 

 

In general, I think, the French have an appreciation for good food built into their collective unconscious; it's simply a happy marriage of land and history, and whether a chicken tastes like chicken actually mattered is different there than a good many places on the planet.  But I also think that sadly, it's giving way to the same forces that have long shaped our world here in the U.S., and it all comes down to whether one works to create a living earth making living things that taste distinctive and good, or whether agribusiness, in collusion with regulatory personnel, continue to propagate the myth of concentration, "optimization" with modern fertilizers and their ilk; continue their literal stranglehold over production.


Edited by paul o' vendange (log)
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-Paul

 

Remplis ton verre vuide; Vuide ton verre plein. Je ne puis suffrir dans ta main...un verre ni vuide ni plein. ~ Rabelais

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I don't know how many McDonald's are in Paris (and don't seem to be able to readily find out...) but France has QUITE a number of them, and it seems the French love them.

 

Some articles, a couple from quite a few years ago so the effect may be even greater now? DianaB, comments?

http://www.businessinsider.com/how-mcdonalds-conquered-france-2014-8 

http://www.slate.com/articles/life/food/2009/06/how_mcdonalds_conquered_france.html 

http://www.npr.org/sections/thesalt/2012/01/24/145698222/why-mcdonalds-in-france-doesnt-feel-like-fast-food 

 

ETA: P.s.: I would also murmur that France isn't the only place where good food and the desire for it is part of the national consciousness. Many are the cultures and countries where this is a strong part of the fabric of life. By no means is this limited to France.

 


Edited by huiray (log)
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I'm not sure where @jmacnaughtan gets 70% from, I don't recall the figure from any of the documentaries I've seen but as my base is England these days I might well have missed the one referred to.  Certainly there is quite a movement supported by restauranteurs who do make their stuff from scratch, that doesn't exclude use of some pre-prepared ingredients in my view.  My friends who are retired restaurant owners would say everything they served was 'maison'.  Nevertheless they bought potatoes peeled and ready to throw in the fryer, as a two person operation they simply didn't have time to peel and chop a mountain of potatoes each morning.  

 

Your articles are intersting @huiray, I remember José Bové and his quest to dismantle one of the early MacDo's. If I recall correctly he ran for election when Sarkozy became President.  Like you I'm sure there are many places where food is a central part of local culture.  In France all events have catering, even the smallest village 'comice'.  There will be mergeuz and frites for all, the buvet will be well stocked and there will be churros all day for those peckish after lunch.

 

Joking of course.  France still celebrates its regional cuisines but does that alongside embracing US style fast food.  Paris is also well stocked in respect of its interpretation of Japanese sushi, Chinese dim sum and anything else that can attract enough of a margin to offset the costs of employing staff to work in the restaurants.  

 

As as to the frozen ready to heat meals, there is a distribution centre right next to the Rungis meat/fish/fruit & veg/dairy market that I understand is the largest in Europe.  Ready prepared doesn't have to mean poor quality, there are choices for all budgets. If the only other option is to put up a closed sign who can blame the small restauranteurs for wanting to stay in business yet not having capacity to pay staff.

 

Where ever we live, compromises are often necessary to continue a business when economic circumstances are difficult.   They are certainly that in many European communities at present.  

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I've spent about 50% of my time in Europe since the mid 1960's.

 

back then there was a gigantic difference.  the differences have narrowed.  

 

small Mom&Pop businesses here have a huge problem competing against national chains.  and it's not new.  in the mid-70's we had a independent hardware store.  wooden floors that creaked, ladders that rolled along the aisle.  he had anything you needed and you could buy x number of whatever you needed, not "how many in the clam shell?"  one day he told me he's retiring - he told me the chains are _selling_ stuff at retail for less than his buying cost.   he retired, turned the business over to his sons, who promptly signed up as an Ace store and everything thenceforth came in cute little plastic bags . . .at about 200%-800% of the prior cost.

 

what Mom&Pop diner can put a hamburger on your plate for a $1 menu?  they cannot afford to sell at a loss and make it up in volume....of fries and soda.....

 

"the chains" have taken much longer to dominate 'their' market in Europe.  it is a done deal /  happened in large population areas now; small towns still 'support their local businessi'

 

I would guess only G Ramsey could figure out how to deliver a cooked frozen duck breast to 25,000 outlets nationwide...that still could be recognized as "duck" vs. "mystery fowl" - but no body would buy it - 'EW! duck?!"  lamb, see previous.  tastes/upbringing/cultures differ.  go to your local supermarket - which tracks sales dollars of each item per square millimeter of shelf space.  check out the meat counter - beef, chicken, pork.  they may or may not have lamb or duck or x or y or z - because,,,, TADA! nobody buys it.  it's not there because the management doesn't like it - they don't care what it tastes like - the only care if it sells well.  liver anyone?

 

family run European - or USA for that matter - eateries that cook from scratch cannot possibly compete price wise against McDonald's, Wimpy's, WeinerWald, etc.  what McDonald's closes on a Monday so the employees if can have a day off?  in USA 'consumers' demand  24x7, 365 days a year.  or perhaps it is management that feels they must meet the same offerings as their competition.....

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The only reason McDonald's can sell what they call beef for $1 is because agribiz is subsidized heavily.  Were the false economies to be rectified, I do suspect the $15.00 Big Mac wouldn't go over as well.  And suddenly that $15 pekin duck might look favorable by comparison.  I'm usually a horrible pessimist about the human condition.  But here, I hold out hope that this attention to our food is not some chance of history, but rather a historical imperative.  Whether by a Malthusian agony, or a more sane, conscious shift in policy, I don't think it's inevitable all we will see in the future are chains, and their associated depredations.

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-Paul

 

Remplis ton verre vuide; Vuide ton verre plein. Je ne puis suffrir dans ta main...un verre ni vuide ni plein. ~ Rabelais

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