Mieux vaut en rire… Laughter is the best medicine…

Mieux vaut en rire… Laughter is the best medicine…

I worry about France. I really do.
 
I browsed the web today, and learned a few fascinating facts. 
 
There was some sad news , like the kidnapping and murder of two French journalists by Al-[$#%&@]-Quaida in Mali. 
 
There was some depressing news: Brittany (Western France) was hit harshly by the recession, and the whole region is in uproar. French authorities are having a terrible time negotiating with angry protesters, nicknamed les Bonnets Rouges (the Red Hatsafter local peasants who rebelled against the French crown in the 17th century.) Still, François Hollande, the unpopular French president, and Jean-Marc Ayraud, his Prime Minister, must realize how lucky they are they do not have to deal with other famous locals, pictured above. Any political or military leader in his right mind would avoid confronting these two (ask Julius Caesar!) 
 
There was disturbing news… We already knew French eating habits have changed. I wrote about the recent French obsession with the Am-Ba-Ga (hamburger) here

McDonald’s is proud to call France its second most profitable market after the United States. McDonald’s has been very, very smart, and that strategy has paid off.
 
 
Les Macarons chez McDo France: Where else?
 
This week, McDo announced customers will now be able to order food online at most restaurants. Fast food has become even faster! Bravo, McDo. You have just created the first “e-Burger!”
 
Meanwhile, Burger King, who deserted France in 1997, wants a slice of the fast food cake. The company returned last year, and opened a restaurant at the Marseilles airport. Business is booming, they say.
 
This fall, Burger King inaugurated another restaurant. The location choice remains puzzling to most. Why would  you open a fast-food restaurant at a freeway rest area, 25 kilometers (15 miles) outside of Reims, in Eastern France? [Note to monolingual readers: kindly refrain from pronouncing “Reims.” You won’t make it!] 
 
Reims, my friends, once played a pivotal role in French history. Many French kings were crowned in the city’s magnificent cathedral…
 
 
 
 
Reims also sits in the heart of Champagne region. Wine tasting is a local sport: Veuve Cliquot, Taittinger, Pommery, Canard Duchêne and hundreds more Champagne houses are based there (we are talking the real stuff… not sparkling wines produced everywhere else in the world.)
 
Les Caves à Champagne (Champagne cellars) 
 
You’ve got to give Burger King serious points for adapting to the local culture: Check out their creative new advertising campaign. Burger King arrives in the city of [French] Kings
 
Get it? 
 
Maybe I am reading too much into this… 
 
 
Notice the warning: “To remain healthy, exercise on a regular basis.” 
 
The most amazing thing about this story? When the Huffington Post featured a story on Burger King this week, I read many comments by French readers praising the brand over its competitors, Mc Do, and the Belgian-owned Quick. These people sounded elated Burger King was returning to France!
 
It must be the fries. Who would resist those healthy fries? And the name is a lot easier to pronounce than Freedom fries!
 
 
 
 
Upon hearing the news (and the rumor claiming a third restaurant would open soon in downtown Paris at the St. Lazare train station,) some argued that once the Whopper became widely available again, French customers would tire of it. 
Maybe.
 
But the hamburger is here to stay, and from what I hear, there are many appealing options. Last year, the New York Times ran a story about American-flavored food trucks, a revolutionary concept two years ago. Today, they are all the rage in the French capital. Hamburgers. Tacos. Cheesecake. Brownies. You name it. The Americanization of Paris is underway…
 
 
 
If I understand the concept right, people patiently wait in line for at least 45 minutes, or one hour, in the cold and rainy Paris weather, just to get their hands on one of these…
 
 
 
Fast food it is (well, once you hold it in your hands that is…) but fancy and trendy food too. Prices are high, as befits the French capital. Young French people (who have always loved everything American,) praise these innovative businesses by bestowing on them the greatest compliment: “C’est très Brooklyn!” (It’s very Brooklyn…)
 
This makes sense: I have never met a French person who did not l.o.v.e. New York City!
 
At the risk of sounding close minded, I’d still pick French fast food offerings if I have to eat and walk in downtown Paris… After all, it’s taken me years to perfect the art of eating a “galette complète” (ham, egg and cheese crêpe) while indulging in a session of lèche-vitrine (window-licking, or window shopping…) 
 
 
 
 
When all else fails, there is always the reliable “jambon beurre” sandwich, ideal while on the go – if you must! – or for picnics at a local park.
 
 
 
Sorry, food trucks, but as long as there will be park benches in downtown Paris, or a local café to enjoy lunch on a cold and rainy day, I do not see the point of switching to this:
 
 
(Photography credit: Out and About in Paris) 
 
This may be “très Brooklyn,” but it certainly isn’t “très Français…
 
Eating while standing: How convivial!
 
Le Jambon-Beurre may be predictable and a little boring, but – unlike the onion-loaded Am-Ba-Ga or even worse, the dreadful onion rings – it won’t give me the foul breath of a Notre-Dame gargoyle when I return to the office! 
 
Take heart, my friends, there was also some heartwarming news. 
 
I heard about a young American expat who has embarked on a challenging mission: Convincing the French to eat kale. Again, the New York Times, always prompt to point at France’s misguided ways, wrote a story about the “Kale Crusader!” 


Meet Kristen Beddard, the “Kale Crusader…”
“Pssst… Kristen, dear, you know you can buy actual flowers at Parisian food markets, right?”


Kale, c’est très Brooklyn, aussi, you know! 

I smiled often as I read the readers’ comments following the article. 

On the French side, they ran from total indifference “Kale? Pfffff… [Insert Gallic shrug,] to angry retorts: “Are we to learn about healthy eating habits from the nation that invented McDonald’s? Don’t Americans know the French already eat balanced and healthy meals?!

On the American (or Anglo-saxon) side: “The French, leading a healthy lifestyle? B.S.! [Insert American version of the Gallic shrug] They ALL smoke!!!” or: “French women are not skinny because they eat well. They are skinny because they starve themselves!” (now, now…) 

Finally, the voice of reason. A Frenchman replied: “The French already know kale. They call it “Chou Frisé.” They grow it here in my region, but it is used to feed rabbits. Call it cultural differences.” 


Le lapin et le chou frisé


Finally, some comforting news: French rabbits are the healthiest rabbits on the planet! And they are wiser than French teenagers. 

French rabbits know that kale keeps you in great shape, and that kale chips are better than Burger King’s Satisfries. Besides, the alternative is too scary to contemplate…




In closing, one last story I found this week. And an entertaining one at that.

In Bordeaux, a group of inebriated teenagers kidnapped a llama named Serge from a local circus (the kids live in BORDEAUX! Can you blame them?) They took the llama for a stroll around the beautiful city, and Serge even got to ride the fancy local tram before they were arrested! 





It turns out the French needed some distraction from all the bad news: Serge and his new friends became instant hits in the social media. A Facebook page was created to support them, and over 800,000 people already follow it! Then the international media heard the story and shared it with the world. Serge got his own meme on the internet. The animal was finally returned to the circus (I am sure he will miss riding the tram for a while…) and a few days later, was reunited with his kidnappers. The circus owner dropped all charges. Tout est bien qui finit bien. All is well that ends well. 


Serge and “Les Boys”


I can’t think of a better way of ending this story. Bordeaux wine. Llamas. Kale-eating rabbits. Traveling Am-Ba-Gas. C’est très Brooklyn!

A bientôt. 


Afterword:

Meet Serge Lama, the popular French singer Serge-the-Llama is named after. I heard Monsieur Lama (who happens to be a Bordeaux native,) fully supported the cause of the five kidnapping artists. 




 

26 Responses to Mieux vaut en rire… Laughter is the best medicine…

  1. Totally brilliant and fascinating article with great pics. I couldn’t stop reading and yes, like you, I won’t be eating American fast food anytime soon. We have a McDo’s in Menton and in Monaco. Oh dear …

  2. C’est bien de finir avec l’histoire du lama! C’est vrai que ça a fait rire et sourire tout le monde , dans cette periode de morosité intense. Et c’est une histoire qui en plus finit bien.
    Pour le reste, Starbucks vient d’ouvrir un 2eme établissement à Nice, et depuis samedi dernier nous avons aussi un Hard Rock Cafe! Sinon, jamais entendu parler du chou frisé dans la region en tant que projet culinaire, et Burger King a plié bagage depuis longtemps .
    Ici, rien ne devrait détrôner notre socca et nos pissalaldières :o)
    Je crois que dans les régions culturellement fortes , la resistance à l’envahisseur, qu’il soit américain ou “hollandais”, reste très forte ..
    Passe une bonne semaine! Bisous!

    • Bonjour Marie. Le Hard Rock Café existe encore? Je ne le savais même pas. A une époque, la chaîne appartenait aux “grosses pointures” américaines, comme Bruce Willis, Sylvester Stallone, etc. Ils ont du vendre il y a longtemps.

      En ce qui me concerne, je resterai fidèle aux pissaladières (et à cette incroyable tarte aux blettes sucrée) lors de mes passages à Nice. Ce qui n’exclut pas une bonne glace au Negresco pour le dessert, en bonne compagnie, bien sûr. Bisous.

  3. So sad to read of the cultural erosion in France. Thankfully I’ve experienced very little of it in the east of the country, where we have our petite maison. “Fast food” is something which comes from the boulangerie or a vendor at the local market!
    Warm regards

    • Sounds like a great place to spend a few months a year, Elizabeth (just not winter months, since we are referring to that part of France…) How is “La Petite Folie” coming along? Have you sacked – or flogged – those lazy contractors yet?

  4. LOVE ALL THE OBSERVATIONS and the way you have woven this post- ALWAYS a delight and informative too-my favorite part was the llama tale and the spirit of forgiveness from the circus owner-that is tres Bordeaux non

    • Merci beaucoup g. Glad you enjoyed my little tales… That llama story is priceless, isn’t it? I am not sure the owner was that forgiving, but when he realized thousands of people were behind the young rebels, (and since Serge had not been hurt,) he decided to go along with the crowd. I am personally happy for that old Llama he got to see the world, even if only from the inside of an urban tram. How many circus animals get to escape their cages for a few hours? 🙂

  5. Dearest Véronique,
    Oh, if you mention those beurre sandwiches, you make me drool as we too served them in The Netherlands. With ham, cheese, roast beef and with beef tartare… It is so good and I would take it anytime instead of a greasy burger. Also we have the veal croquette and that inside a fresh baked whole wheat bread-bun… Yummy!
    Dreams… But yes, the social media is very rapidly creating one world taste, one world food, etc. etc. Not very positive as a lot of things will become forever lost. A shame but nobody seems to be bothered by it.
    Sad story about the French journalists…
    Hugs to you,
    Mariette

    • Veal croquette, eh? That sounds good to me, Mariette. I would not worry so much about the social media jeopardizing local cultures. Paris is a big cosmopolitan city where people have traditionally enjoyed new trends and fads. Things are very different when you leave the French capital and reach culture-proud regions. See my friend Malyss’s comments above. Hamburgers may be popular now, but who knows if they will still be around in Paris in 10 years? Halloween, another American import, was big for a few years. Today, it’s all but disappeared in my homeland. C’est la vie…

  6. This post definitely counts as one of your very best —- I laughed, I cried…. I, too, am worried for my belle France. I just want France to remain as she is (or was) and the US to do the same. Is that asking too much? Perhaps it is.

    I have never been able to eat and walk at the same time. I cannot eat unless I am seated at a table. Am I missing a certain street gene? Hmmmm. Oh well………mieux vaut en rire. It’s better to laugh than to cry.

    Big bisous, ma grande, M-T

    • Ah, M-T. I just can’t see you eating and walking either, my elegant friend! 🙂 France will be just fine. Paris has always enjoyed experiencing new things, and it needs to evolve a bit, just as London is these days. From what I saw last summer traveling around la Belle France, WiFi may be available almost everywhere now, but the [French] lifestyle as you and I knew, is alive and well. And that is a good thing.

  7. VÉRO! BONJOUR!

    OK, this post touches my heart in more ways than one. Even though I am not French-born but have adopted not only the language but French culture, it makes me very sad to know that the American way is slowly creeping into France. When I was in France 11 years ago (YIKES! I better get myself over there again soon!), I was INTRIGUED to find how different I found things from here in the states. I know I cannot be the only Francophile/tourist who finds a beauty and charm in seeing THE DIFFERENCES that make us, well…..DIFFERENT! But to think that the American market is slowly going in to change the French landscape and eating habits makes me angry. I want to go to France or any other country for that matter to see how THEY LIVE, not a mirror of how I live….oh it just kills me. LONG LIVE THE FRENCH WAY! And I was so glad to know LES BOYS and all of that fiasco turned out: Tout est bien qui finit bien, bien sûr!

    THANK YOU FOR VISITING! Anita

    • Bonjour Anita, et merci de ta visite. Take heart my friend, cultural differences abound, and I know I am in France as soon as I land at Charles de Gaulle airport (probably my least favorite place in Europe, by the way…) France has so many (strong) regional cultures, and there is still so much regional pride left. As demonstrated by recent current events, Asterix and Obelix would feel right at home if they returned to Armorique (sorry, to la Bretagne…) today! Good luck to fancy hamburgers and kale chips. I personally hope they make outside of Paris. We would not want good old McDo to enjoy the whole [fast food] cake by itself, now, would we? Bon weekend!

  8. Wow, I had no idea Burger King was a legend. I must get out more often! I just think of it as an overrated, inexpensive, unhealthy way to consume calories. One of the delights of visiting France is to eat “their” fabulous cuisine. The locals must be bored?

  9. Firstly, just seeing the first image has reminded me again to reread my Astérix books! Secondly, it’s lunchtime here and how I wish I could eat a sandwich like the ones piled high in your photo. Le jambon-beurre will never be boring!! I’m astounded that France is McDonald’s second most profitable market – I had to read that twice to make sure I had understood. Clever marketing from Burger King too. Great post which kept me entertained from start to finish,
    PS Thank you so much for your comment on my Doha post. I always appreciate your visits and thoughts! Merci Véronique!

  10. je découvre ton blog, il est très sympathique et j’adore lire tes rubriques, certaines sont parcellaires dans le contenu mais j’adore la façon dont tu te moques gentiment des Français! j’aime beaucoup cela m’amuse!
    Have a nice day! Cath. (je vis près de Reims! en champagne à côté de Paris)

    • Merci beaucoup et bienvenue chez moi, Cath. Je suis nostalgique de la France, et tu t’apercevras en lisant mes billets, surtout les plus anciens, que j’égratigne de temps en temps les Français (surtout quand ils le méritent, comme avec l’histoire des hamburgers 🙂 Nos amis Américains ne sont pas épargnés, comme cette semaine – même si je le fais toujours avec humour et courtoisie. En effet, je n’aime pas les expatriées qui crachent dans la soupe (et j’évite leurs blogs comme la peste!) Je file faire un tour chez toi pour découvrir ton blog. A bientôt j’espère…

  11. Hello. I am late with this comment but just found this post. Thank you so much for including me in your post about the demise of France when it comes to fast food (that yes, I will admit is marketed by horrible American companies and I never personally eat). I’m a bit confused as to why myself and The Kale Project are included in a post about corporate companies that promote processed, fast-food. All I have tried to do is work with local, French farmers to grow a légume oublié that has European origins and increase supply so people can buy it for their own home cooking. We do not all live in the country where it’s grown for rabbits or cows. I’ve never said it is American “thing” as it’s just another option of cabbage for people to buy and eat. I’ve never once said that I’m trying to change French food culture or teach French people how to eat – clearly a silly, stupid American would never do such a thing! But I do not think chou frisé non-pommé and hamburgers/processed food trucks belong in the same discussion. How am I in any way harming or hurting your home country? Thank you. Kristen Beddard

  12. Dear Kristen. Thank you for stopping by. If you have been hurt by this story, I apologize. First, let me reassure you: I do not believe that you, “the Kale Crusader” (gotta love the New York Times,) are harming my country in any way. This post was not intended to bemoan the “demise of France,” either. I think France will survive Mc Do, Burger King, trendy food trucks, and yes, kale chips, just fine.

    If you are familiar with my stories, you know I enjoy commenting on new trends in French society, or on cultural differences between our two countries. The reason you are mentioned in this lighthearted story is because your name came up online when I researched the current obsession with kale, kale chips, and everything kale, especially in the US. Nothing more, nothing less.

    As such, you are part of this post. I have not linked you in any way to fast food, or American companies, or accused you of trying to change French food culture. I did quote people who might have thought so, however. You are on a mission. Good for you.

    If I did poke fun of someone in this story (as I have been known to do on occasion,) my target was French people, in particular Parisians, who will adopt anything as long as “C’est très Brooklyn.”

    I am sorry you do not agree that “chou frisé” and “processed foods” do not belong in the same discussion. When I wrote this story, I thought they did. As did Serge the llama.

    Good luck in your endeavor.

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