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Margaret Pilgrim

Bonjour, Euro

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I wonder if I am the only person who laments, no, mourns the passing of the franc.  While intellectually I can tell you within pennies what my purchase would be in US dollars, to be honest, in most instances I just don't bother.  I am used to what most things cost in francs, but not in dollars or, until this last year or so, in euros.  I can relate to a 350FF dinner, a 250FF bunch of flowers, a 250FF bottle of wine, but I haven't a clue what a ฿.30 dinner, or a ั.33 bouquet or bottle of wine looks or tastes like. Adding to the emotional disturbance is the fact that they are taking away one of the enjoyable mystiques of travel.  I am delighted with a 24FF or 30FF macaroon, but I'm going to be far less enthusiastic about a ū.24 or Ŭ.05 "cookie"!  I really don't WANT to have prices posted in a currency that is so close to the US dollar.  Until the conversion, I could always turn a blind eye to the euro price, but next year it will be my only option.  I am quite up in arms.  My husband says that it will take me at least 48 hours to become comfortable with the new pricing, and that during that time he will just have to listen to me rage!  (Such a cynic!)  

Am I alone?

Ammendment: When I posted the above I assumed that it was so obviously facetious that smilies were redundant.  Maybe it's simply female logic and/or my appreciation of the absurd that accepts that having a foreign currency interface between you and your VISA bill can make such an enormous difference in one's enjoyment of travel.

(Edited by Margaret Pilgrim at 9:02 pm on Dec. 24, 2001)


eGullet member #80.

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I'm opposed to the Euro for political, economic, and philosophical reasons, but I have no sentimental attachment to the Franc itself. However, I do have about 100 Francs lying around my house. If anybody is going to France before the end of the year, I'll mail them to you as a holiday present.


Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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I have about 150 francs plus change myself, but I believe you will be able to exchange them at least until June at any bank and long afterwards with greater difficulty. I lament the loss of the franc the way I lament the loss of having my passport stamped between countries and not having to carry traveler's checks. I'm sure we lament the many things that made travel a chore but which gave seasoned traveler's an edge and a certain ventrans standing. While I felt at home with French francs, Belgian francs, Italian Lire and Spanish pesetas were a pain.

What I miss most is the ability to walk down the street in Paris, Lyon, Bordeaux, Montpellier, etc. and not see the exact same clothing and shoes in the shop windows as I see in NYC. ####, I miss going uptown and not seeing diffferent merchandise than I see in SoHo.

On the subject of changing money, I have a strong opinion that ATM cards are far superior to any other way of getting foreign currency, and that credit cards are better than cash for most transactions. The exchange rates are the best you will get. Traveler's checks are among the most expensive ways to cover your travel expenses, although the banks have rapidly added fees to both ATM withdrawals and credit card charges in foreign currency. This is a pet peeve of mine as the banks are not invloved in the currency exchange. It's handled by Visa or MasterCard and the card issuing bank is only invovled in dollar amounts. They add this so called "foreign currency conversion surcharge" because it's hidden. A 3% fee would be clearly noticed if it was added to a dollar transaction. HSBC is the only local NYC bank that does not add anything to either ATM withdrawals or credit card purchases specifically for the conversion, as far as I know. I've done a fair amount of research into this as a matter of principle. Chase said they only added the surcharge on credit card charges and not on withdrawals, but I got exactly 2% less from a withdrawal from Chase within seconds of making an identical withdrawal from an HSBC account.

The only thing I've not covered is the possible fee per use for ATMs. That varies from bank to bank and by account level as well. Generally higher minimum balances apply for a waiver of the fee abroad than in the US, but European banks will not add a fee at the machine. If you read the fine print on most NYC bank machines, you'll find that overseas card holders are exempt from local fees. My understanding is that both Visa and MasterCard networks prohibit charging a fee to overseas travelers world wide.

Margaret, I understand your lamentations. (I haven't read your ammendment.) Your husband is an optimist, it may take a week to adjust. It took me years to adjust to the loss of the Gare Montparnasse and I've not yet adjusted to the tower that replaced it.


Robert Buxbaum

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Recent WorldTable posts include: comments about reporting on Michelin stars in The NY Times, the NJ proposal to ban foie gras, Michael Ruhlman's comments in blogs about the NJ proposal and Bill Buford's New Yorker article on the Food Network.

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Margaret. Take up skiing and hang out in St. Moritz. Norway is supposed to nice, and of course there's always jolly old England. Been to Japan or SE Asia yet? It's the same distance for you as it is to Europe, just about. Anyway, the dollar and the Euro are drifting more and more apart from parity. Next stop, I predict: 82 cents again, maybe below .80. But sure, I will miss the French franc, and as Steven, I always felt the Euro was a bad idea with the worst yet to come. If it really gets you down, take to heart the lyrics to this song Jackie and Roy did:

Some day we'll go places

See lands and new faces

The day we quit punching the clock.

The future looks pleasant

But at present

Let's Take a Walk Around the Block

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Because France is the only European country with which I identify and whose currency is as familiar to me as our own. It is the only country where I am completely comfortable with pricing of goods and services. In other words, it is the one country other than my own where I feel that I have substantial equity.

Again, I somehow think that my original post is being misread.  It was written as a whimsy, and is coming across as simply fatuous.


eGullet member #80.

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Jason, France is special, at least here, because it's on topic. Anyone else caught questioning the "specialness" of France may fear banishment to other boards. ;)

In answer to your question however, not all European countries will go euro in January. In fact, not all countries in the European Union will go euro. Twelve countries have adopted the Euro, as of 1 January 2002:

Austria

Belgium

Finland

France

Germany

Greece

Ireland

Italy

Luxembourg

The Netherlands

Portugal

Spain

England is a notable exception. The pound continues to float (and rise) against the euro. The three Scandinavian countries, but not Finland. are not going euro, nor is Switzerland.


Robert Buxbaum

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Recent WorldTable posts include: comments about reporting on Michelin stars in The NY Times, the NJ proposal to ban foie gras, Michael Ruhlman's comments in blogs about the NJ proposal and Bill Buford's New Yorker article on the Food Network.

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Then there's the matter of getting your country accepted into the European Economic Community; i.e. Poland, Hungary, Turkey,etc. Then the voters in countries like the UK and Denmark have to approve the Euro in a referendum. (Denmark has voted against adopting the Euro once or twice). I believe, however, that the citizens in the 12 Euro countries had the Euro shoved down their throats. I'm not sure if a referendum is required in each country that gets into the EEC, however.

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I'm also opposed to the Euro on political, philosophical, economic and practical grounds, but that's surely not "on topic" ;)

I think the issue is contained in Bux's comments about 'obstacles' to international travel. Those obstacles helped to create a mystique about foreign countries, and helped to reinforce their 'differentness' from our own. Currency was always one of the lesser obstacles, as compared with language, culture, geography and travel.

But the loss in mainland Europe of the currency difference is, I believe, the thin end of a much larger wedge. The next harmonisation will be politics, closely followed by culture. Then will come language (Esperanto is sitting waiting in the wings !!!). This process of Europeanisation saddens me, as much for countries like Holland, Spain and Italy as for France.

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I'm in France, and several people (who may not have definitive information in this regard) indicated that the Euro can be utilized starting January 1, even though a package of Euros can now be purchased from specified locations (e.g., post offices).  

My understanding from third-hand sources is that the Franc cannot be used in France as currency starting February 1 (?).

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Cabrales, how long will you be in France? My understanding is that after January 1, purchases can be made in either francs or euros (most places have had dual price lists for some time by now) but that change may only be given in euros. I'm sure there will be a little cheating, but it sounds like a real pain in the neck. I suspect most people will be eager to change their francs to euros, or just deposit them into their bank account and withdraw euros as soon as possible. I'm not sure about the cut off date for using francs. February rings a bell, but I'm not sure if it's the beginning or end. Each country has its own schedule for reining in the old currency. My understanding is that you will be able to change your old francs for euros at your local bank until the end of June. After that you will have to use the French central or national bank and I suspect that will be a royal pain for tourists. There are several euro FAQs posted, but I don't have a URL handy.


Robert Buxbaum

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Recent WorldTable posts include: comments about reporting on Michelin stars in The NY Times, the NJ proposal to ban foie gras, Michael Ruhlman's comments in blogs about the NJ proposal and Bill Buford's New Yorker article on the Food Network.

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Speaking from Britain, it saddens me to see the Euro. Not because I want to preserve the past but becaise it represents the march of Globalisation, of which France is the premier resistor. Britain resists it for all the wrong reasons, nationalistic and zenophobic.  

It will be a victory for the International buisness men who more and more control our lives, those of us who want to live a more local/renuable existance will gain nothing. A farmer producing farmhouse cheese will gain nothing, but an international conglomerate will be able move its so called food more easily.

It is not the end, to be sure, but not a step forward.

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Personally I disagree with anyone against the euro for globalization or europeanization reasons. As someone who has travelled all over europe, I can tell you that as a tourist its a royal pain in the ass to have to constantly convert currency and calculate exchange rates to the dollar when purchasing items... By unifying the currency, prices will stabilize and businesses will be able to compete with each other using similar pricing. It will be no different for that local cheese farmer than it is in the US... if his artisanal products are good, people will still want them.

To say that a unified currency can swipe away hundreds of years of national pride and culture of any of the Euro Zone members is rediculous, especially in the case of the French, who are known for their pride in such things. Anything that makes europe more accessible to world travellers, especially in this time where people are afraid of world travel to begin with, is a good thing.

For what its worth, if the currency unification project succeeds, the current party pooper, England, will have no choice but to join up.


Jason Perlow

Co-Founder, The Society for Culinary Arts & Letters

offthebroiler.com - Food Blog | View my food photos on Instagram

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LOL Jason. Heaven alone knows what you mean by "...if the currency unification project succeeds", because sure as eggs is eggs, no-one else does :) When Texas secedes, America apologises for slavery, and #### freezes over, Britain (not England, by the way) may just join the Eurozone.

I disagree with your economic and cultural assessments of the effect of the Euro. The real effects will go far beyond your imagination, and to even risk that in exchange for helping American tourists to calculate prices a bit more easily....:(

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A farmer in France will be able to sell his wine, cheese or eggs to someone in Germany without having to loose the commission he had to pay on the exchange in the past. That's far more likely to help the middle men or the agricorp than the small farmer, but it is likely to make trade within the zone and between the zone and the outside world better to a general advantage of the euro community.

The losses that should concern eGullet.com are not the petty nationalism or globalization of currency, but the watering down of accepted standards of food within the various countries. The northern countries like their milk products sterile and it's affecting the regulations that French cheesemakers must live by. In the U.K., they have a taste for foreign grease in their chocolate (and I don't care if it's margarine or axle grease--it's not cocoa butter). Belgium lost a hard fought battle to have chocolate held to the Belgian standards. One can only hope that countries such as Belgium and France adopt some sort of A.O.C. designations for their traditional chocolates, because it's no longer illegal to make a degraded confection and call it chocolate within the E.U. The E.U. leans towards adopting the lowest common standards of excellence and the most rigorous standards of sterility.


Robert Buxbaum

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Recent WorldTable posts include: comments about reporting on Michelin stars in The NY Times, the NJ proposal to ban foie gras, Michael Ruhlman's comments in blogs about the NJ proposal and Bill Buford's New Yorker article on the Food Network.

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Bux, do you have any idea what the enforcement mechanism is going to be on this stuff? I can easily imagine the French doing the enforcing, but when it comes to an "outside" agency, it's hard to imagine makes of "fromages fermiers" bowing to any pressure. They'd shoot any EEC enforcer first! I hate the whole thing, but the more chaos the better it is for us and our greenback. Maybe I'm blowing smoke, but I'm still counting on the cheese-making farmers coming down from the hills and mountains with their unadulterated cheeses, Romantic that I am.

(Edited by robert brown at 4:22 pm on Dec. 26, 2001)

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Robert, have you read Mort Rosenblum's A Goose in Toulouse? It's a testament to the fact that the French have not changed a bit, as well as documentation of all the little changes that spell the death of Frehnch food and agriculture as we knew it.  

The Art of Cooking article discussed on the Epoisses thread elswhere on this site shows exactly how the best of them bow to pressure. "In September 1999, the pressure became too great, and Berthaut began to heat all the milk for its cheeses." That's Edward Behr speaking of the monitoring of Epoisses in France.


Robert Buxbaum

WorldTable

Recent WorldTable posts include: comments about reporting on Michelin stars in The NY Times, the NJ proposal to ban foie gras, Michael Ruhlman's comments in blogs about the NJ proposal and Bill Buford's New Yorker article on the Food Network.

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Reereenforcing Bux's recommendation of AGiT as well as his warning regarding the coming changes in artisan foods in Europe, particularly in France, we had a long conversation with the manager of the Androuet shop in our quartier.  He said without hesitation that they fully expect eventual, sooner rather than later, compliance with the new regulations, and therefore the dumbing down of most production.  When I raged at the concept, he shrugged and said, "It's been that way in America for decades!  Why should France be any different?"  I, of course, told him, "Because France IS different!"  AGiT tells us that one of the major reasons there has been so little resistance from the small French producer is that much of this product is manufactured and sold "without benefit of clergy" or off the books, however you want to phrase it.  So it is rather difficult for these extralegal producers to rebel about new regulations in an industry in which they are supposedly not participating.


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To quote Bux: " One can only hope that countries such as Belgium and France adopt some sort of A.O.C. designations for their traditional chocolates, because it's no longer illegal to make a degraded confection and call it chocolate within the E.U. The E.U. leans towards adopting the lowest common standards of excellence and the most rigorous standards of sterility."

     This is also known as "American Practise".

Except for eGulletarians and a few connoiseurs, food as enjoyment is at a  low priority of things in the minds of people in the US. A perfect example are the "Gourmet" sections in Supermarkets all over the US. Can someone tell me what makes Red Cabbage or Sauerkraut in jars from Germany "gourmet", or can Anchovies, or Muesli, or Knorr soups, or plain Pumpernikel, or steel rolled Oats. And then there is "President" brand Brie?

Come on tell me guys, I deserve to be hit with a wet noodle. My criticism and sarcasm is self satisfying.


Peter

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"Gourmet" sections in Supermarkets
I'm not sure that word should ever be used without quotation marks. Yes, these sections are, as a rule, jokes, but before they existed their was nothing funny about going to the supermarket. Supermarkets in many diverse places seem to have a lot better offerings than they did forty years ago. The application of "gourmet" to seel shoddy imported merchandise is not new. In the sixties, and probably before, "gourmet" gift baskets were full of Swiss cheese products no more worthy of the name cheese than those slices on a Burger King cheeseburger.

Peter, when you said "American Practise," I expected you were going to refer to our long standing practice of ripping off place names that signified quality and were protected in Europe. We're not alone or we wouldn't be able to sell imported Finnish Swiss cheese.


Robert Buxbaum

WorldTable

Recent WorldTable posts include: comments about reporting on Michelin stars in The NY Times, the NJ proposal to ban foie gras, Michael Ruhlman's comments in blogs about the NJ proposal and Bill Buford's New Yorker article on the Food Network.

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The worrying aspect of Euro-Harminisation is not the names that are allowed (or not) to be given to certain foods. I happen to prefer Terry's (English) dark 'chocolate' to any Belgian 'chocolate' and I really don't mind if the Euro-Foodpolice insist on calling it chocorama or spindlegook. People buy a particular 'chocolate' not because it is or isn't made from cocoa, or does or doesn't contain milk, but because they like the taste. And consumers are quite capable of differentiating between products without help from a European Commission ;)

The real problem is the one discussed in the last half dozen posts, that a bunch of petty bureaucrats who try to justify their salaries by dreaming up new food regulations are actually going to destroy some wonderful food products by making them illegal.

Consumers will have less choice, and plastic will prevail over real food.

But this is the way of Europeanisation, sadly. I have some sympathy for Peter's view that this all started in the USA, but even if so, that is no justification for what Europe will do.

I disagree with Margaret's comment that "France IS different".  I believe that France politically aspires to be like, and then to surpass, America in all that America does. "Vive la difference" is a dead phrase, and France is no longer a bastion of cultural protection and development. Britain has now assumed that mantle, and perhaps all those wonderful French cottage industries will move to Britain in order to escape the European shackles.

...hmmm....what's the English for Brie and Roquefort....

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French goat farmers are not going to move to Britain for two reasons. First, the E.U. regulations are equally applicable and Britain is at least as likely to enfore them. Second, it's unlikely that there would be a larger market for the cheese in Britain than there is in France.

Of course there's a vast difference between protecting a product by protecting it's name, be it the name of a product (e.g. chocolate) or the name of a region producing the product (e.g. champagne, burgundy, etc.) and enforcing regulations which by nature will degrade the product (e.g. pasturisation of milk for cheese). I don't have any personal experience with Terry's, but the issue is more than just one of personal acquired taste. In Belgium, consumers were guaranteed that any product called chocolate met certain standards. A chocolate flavored bar, or cocoa flavored confection was not the same as a chocolate. The guarantee is no longer in effect. The E.U. has said the manufacturer can substitute less expensive vegetable shortening for cocoa butter and legally label his product as "chocolate," and that the Belgians cannot demand a higher standard for products labeled "chocolate" than any other country in the E.U. Of course chocolatiers can still make finer chocolate and depend upon their brand name and reputation to charge a higher price and consumers can always read the ingredient label. In the case of pasturised milk, the quality product is removed from circulation. Pierre Marcolini will continue to have fancy chocolate boutiques in chic neighborhoods, while a raw milk cheesemonger may one day be required to operate only as a blackmarketeer and I don't look forward to the days of bathtub chevre. ;)


Robert Buxbaum

WorldTable

Recent WorldTable posts include: comments about reporting on Michelin stars in The NY Times, the NJ proposal to ban foie gras, Michael Ruhlman's comments in blogs about the NJ proposal and Bill Buford's New Yorker article on the Food Network.

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According to one web site the franc will remain legal tender until February 17. You will be able to exchange your francs for euros at banks until June 30. The site includes information about all of the euro countries.


Robert Buxbaum

WorldTable

Recent WorldTable posts include: comments about reporting on Michelin stars in The NY Times, the NJ proposal to ban foie gras, Michael Ruhlman's comments in blogs about the NJ proposal and Bill Buford's New Yorker article on the Food Network.

My mailbox is full. You may contact me via worldtable.com.

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Quote: from Bux on 10:32 am on Dec. 26, 2001

Cabrales, how long will you be in France? My understanding is that after January 1, purchases can be made in either francs or euros (most places have had dual price lists for some time by now) but that change may only be given in euros.

Bux -- I'm in France until the very beginning of January.

Even before receiving any euros, I am finding the non-round-number aspect of the euro a disadvantage.  I hope the euro coins are not heavy.

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The best responce to harmonization, wether it is standards of mediocraty, EEC or Globalization is Local production. All eGulliters can encourage this, I was somewhat surprised to find Organic Onions from New Zealand and Turnips from Thialand in my local supermarket, the market for organic produce is becomming a department of the global economy. All the good of organic production is undone by the air miles, the temptation to buy these products is best resisted and local sources found. Of course local Organic produce would be preferrable, but this is not always the case . Farmers Markets are becoming ever more common and we do everyone a favour by seeking out these and other sources. We will be providing a counter weight, however minor, to a 'market' which is not quality concious. If producers are to be persuaded that quality pays then a market must be proved to exist.

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