Friday, June 26, 2009

Touche, my French-food snob friends?

Pardon the clumsy headline, but I'm posting this on behalf of friends who have spent hours with me marveling at the superiority of all things French -- the beauty of their diplomats, the stylish affairs of their politicians, the cut of their clothes, their dogs in their restaurants, their gallant resistance to that recent unpleasant period of presidential leadership....and of course their vastly superior choices in food. The French are so wise, so superior, that their virtues are borne out in the very manifestation of their corporal being. You cannot find a single fat person in France. Not one. It's that miracle diet of merlot wine, bread and stinky cheese -- not a wrinkle of flab from Normandy to Arles. A miracle! Americans eat Cheerios. Why are they so dumb?

Some of this came even from friends who joined me in sneaking into a McD in Paris when pedestrian matters of finances, convenience, predictable quality and lust for a cheese burger, pronto, trumped social graces and upward mobility. (My all time favorite McD moment was in Madrid when I had tired of slow, disappointing Spanish food, especially sour butter, and just wanted an Egg McMuffin and OJ -- was a happy moment. I had another moment of comfort in Chang Mai.)

Not all of my friends betrayed their principles. One fought the pleadings of a pack of teenage boys who wanted to eat lunch at a McD in Killarney. He insisted on paying 10 times more for Irish food, which is really British food, with a side of historical grievances.

To be clear, I'm not a McD enthusiast. In Seattle, you'll find me at Dick's. In Cle Elum, it's McKean's Drive In. I cheered "Supersize Me," the movie. I try to watch my weight except when I'm within 100 yards of ice cream.

But to all my French-loving friends, may I refer you to a recent article in Slate that shows that the French themselves like McDonald's. In fact, McDonald's is wildly popular:

The company was pulling in over a million people per day in France, and annual turnover was growing at twice the rate it was in the United States. Arresting as those numbers were, there was an even more astonishing data point: By 2007, France had become the second-most profitable market in the world for McDonald's, surpassed only by the land that gave the world fast food.

It's possible the writer is wrong, brain damaged by hormone-injected burgers, shakes infused with fire retardant, and hyper-saturated fat fries. But it seems there's no denying many French love their McD.

Call this an end to civilization, a measure of how the bad drives out the good. But maybe my friends need to dial back their all-things-French hubris and acknowledge a few gaps in their arguments. But take some comfort, freedom-fry eaters. At least now that have a new point of cultural reference. We have the world's coolest president, hitting 3 pointers while wearing his wrap-around shades and karate chopping flies with one swoop. Yes we can!

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