The Null Device

Je n'aime le macdoh; c'est gauche

Dragged kicking and screaming into the world of time-squeezed Anglocapitalist efficiency, the French have been taking to McDonalds in droves. Well, someone in France has, with the chain making more money in France than in Britain and reporting record profits. The funny thing is, it's never any French person anyone has actually met; all interviewed profess an existential disgust of le macdoh.
“No,” says Magali. “It is not. A croque is something ... beautiful. But thees is ... my god.” Correction. Magali is not appalled. This is something deeper than appalled. This is existential.
Magali doesn't eat in McDonald's. In fact, she says, she doesn't know anybody who eats in McDonald's. Stop any Frenchman on the street - and we stop plenty - and he will shrug and snarl and say that he doesn't eat in McDonald's, either.
Going into an actual McDonalds didn't help the reporters find an actual French person who will admit to liking what McDonalds has to offer:
At the next table a family are eating together. “We're only in here because we're in a rush,” says the father, much like a husband explaining a mistress to his incredulous wife. “It's not normal. We would never eat in McDonald's usually.” He says that he is from Montreal, anyway, and that we may refer to him only as Mr X. The rest of the family stay silent, and munch, and blush.
The French embrace of fast food has led to a steep rise in obesity rates in France, with some speculating that French culture's unpreparedness for such gastronomic habits may hit France especially hard:
French obesity rates have rocketed in recent years. According to estimates, 11 per cent of the French are obese and 40 per cent are overweight. This is better than the UK or the US, but it grows by about 5 per cent every year. One thinks of those previously untouched indigenous tribes that manage to wipe themselves out in a generation after being introduced to booze. The French are failing to eat in moderation. For a culture that prides itself on its waistline, this is a difficult failing to accept.
The boom in fast food in France isn't all McDonalds, though; indigenous fast food concepts are appearing as well:
In recent years, at least in Paris, there has been a boom in fast-food eateries of the sort described above. The pioneer in this respect is a newish chain called Cojean. It was set up in 2001 by Alain Cojean, who had spent the previous 15 years working in research and development for - yes - McDonald's. Cojean is a very different beast.
We visit the branch across the road from the Louvre. Cool and airy, it is tastefully converted from an elaborately corniced patisserie. It sells fresh salads, proper coffee and sandwiches that are resolutely not triangular. We pick a ham and melon salad with noodles and rocket. The melon tastes as if it has just fallen from a tree, and the ham just scraped from a happy pig. There is a surprise bit of jagged plastic lurking in the middle, true enough, but we are not in McDonald's so we have no urge to sue. It just adds to the sense of handmade authenticity.
During my recent visits to Paris, I've also noticed a lot of takeaway sushi places. (The Rue de la Verrerie in the Marais is particularly full of them.) These places have plastic boxes of nigiri and sashimi sitting on shelves in chillers, much as in many other global cities; from my experience, the sushi, whilst nothing fancy, is typically of a high standard. So for me, fast food in Paris has typically meant sushi.

There are 5 comments on "Je n'aime le macdoh; c'est gauche":

Posted by: unixdj Wed Aug 20 10:40:18 2008

You forgot the link:

As a furriner, I'd like to ask your clarification on this part:

"...none of the many diners we meet bothers to mention what, for a Brit, is the most striking French culinary fact of all: they don't pay for their lunch. Their employer does."

Why is it striking? Don't British companies ever subsidize lunches for their employees?

Posted by: acb Wed Aug 20 10:49:38 2008

OK, link fixed.

AFAIK, British employees buy their own lunches, much as they buy their own rail tickets to work. Subsidised lunches (or, rather, having part of the employee package as vouchers usable only for food) would be seen as intolerable Eurosocialist dirigism, and completely at odds with the Anglo-Saxon way of life.

Posted by: Greg Thu Aug 21 00:32:34 2008

Employers paying for lunch?! Where do I sign? I've never seen this in 25 years of working in Australia, public, private and uni.

Posted by: datakid Thu Aug 21 01:10:33 2008

+1 greg

Posted by: steve Thu Aug 21 07:14:25 2008

The restaurant tickets are brilliant, a small booklet of coupons redeemable at most restaurants...

McDo's in France is much of a muchness to everywhere else, tastes about the same. I've not come across much of a stigma about eating McDo's other than the idea that it's preferable not to eat utter crap whenever possible. The real surprise though is KFC. The few times I've had it here I've been a bit surprised at the taste and quality of the chicken when compared to elsewhere... very odd... Having said that, given the choice I'd much sooner grab a few bits and pieces at the supermarket than patronise either of these fine establishments...

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