They Got the Metric System Over There…

July 18, 2008 at 6:38 am | Posted in food | 13 Comments
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No time these days for a serious blog post, but I was wondering what the blogosphere thought about this article in the NYTimes about how hamburgers are taking over Paris.  Is it true?  Have you seen this trend in action?  Or was this merely a slow news day?

For my part, it strikes me as slightly sad.  There are so many things I love about France, and so many things I love about America, but I have generally found that we don’t do each other’s things very well.  I felt a sort of pang when I read that French chefs were annoyed with French diners for refusing to eat with their hands.  Eating burgers with a knife and fork typifies everything I love about the French — the staunch, Gallic self-confidence that suggests, “We will take on your culture, but we will modify it to suit our own needs and prejudices.”

I don’t know, I suppose I’m being a bit patronizing.  If the French want to experiment with American food, eh bien, qu’ils mangent des burgers. Who am I to wish them back into some perceived fantasy of authentic Frenchness?  Just as long as American eateries don’t develop a sudden fad for steak tartare…  given our current food safety issues, that could hardly end well.

hamburger?

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13 Comments

  1. Hmmmm… I’ve been mulling this over for a while — I read your post earlier today, Amy, and then I read the NYT article. As an American here in Paris, obviously we all need our “hamburger” fix on occasion, but admittedly it’s not something I would eat on a regular basis here. It’s kind of interesting to see these “riffs” on the classic burger, and at the same time it makes you laugh to think that chefs are actually “experimenting” with the burger…

    Interesting piece!

  2. Must have been a slow news day (and I don’t know why, but every time the NY Times does a piece about France, it’s just clichés and idiocies beneath the quality of that paper).

    Hamburgers have been pretty common in my 50,000 people hometown for about… I don’t know… 20 years?

    So I have some serious doubts that they’re a new fad in Paris (actually, I know for a fact they’re not, they’ve been around for long and are no more common now than 10 years ago)…

    Also: “We will take on your culture, but we will modify it to suit our own needs and prejudices.”

    Isn’t it what every single culture does when it takes something from another culture?

    • “…and I don’t know why, but every time the NY Times does a piece about France, it’s just clichés and idiocies beneath the quality of that paper,” David, I comply ! I actually wrote to them about this while they were “following” the French presidential elections and all it appeared they were doing were perpetuating the French myths and stereotypes that Americans love. (Sarkozy, what a disaster)

      Regardless, I have been here for 4 years now and by God do I love to stumble upon a good hamburger (which is not always an easy find). And I admit, I have started to eat steak tatare “aller retour,” which has influenced my taste in hamburgers: the bloodier the better. Bistro hamburgers are often very rare and they fall apart in the bun, hence the knife in fork (but I’ve always done that…even in the States as a measure of hygiene). I’m not a fan of American globalization by any means, but would it be legitimate to propose that the French knack for steak haché and tatare was a “segway” to the hamburger?

  3. “Isn’t it what every single culture does when it takes something from another culture?”
    .
    Yeah, maybe. Guess so. I said it wasn’t the world’s most thought-out blog post.
    .
    I guess when cultures meet, there’s always a tension between assimilating and fetishizing authenticity. Some people want to take from other cultures and make it their own, others want to obsessively recreate an experience they imagine others to be having. Hence the disconnect between French people who eat burgers with a knife and fork, and French people who lament this mongrelization.

  4. The knife and fork thing is pretty simple in my opinion.

    When in McDonald’s I’ll eat a hamburger with my finger without thinking twice, same thing at home.

    If I happen to order a hamburger in a restaurant (coincidence, I did just that last week, I think it was a first in France), I’ll use a fork and a knife to eat it, simply because it’s not socially acceptable to eat with your fingers in a restaurant in France (except for few exceptions).

  5. I forgot: “Some people want to take from other cultures and make it their own, others want to obsessively recreate an experience they imagine others to be having.”

    I think it’s a two phases thing.
    First it’s a fad, people want to recreate (usually poorly) an experience they imagine others to be having.
    Then either the fad disappears, either it’s integrated in the culture and people make it their own…
    Especially with food (even if I’m sure we can find other examples too)

  6. i’m not a big burger eater, but get a hankerin every now and then…recently stumbled on a place that makes a bitchin burger for just such occasions :
    Le Bidule 2 rue faidherbe 75011
    miam miam.
    thought i’d share ;)

  7. Thanks for the tip, Jenny.

  8. Hi, great to see a post from you! I remember seeing burgers on the menus at bistros and a few nicer places when I arrived 2.5 years ago (not such a long history, I know). I’m glad that they can be found outside of McDonald’s, which I find disgusting. I’m still shocked when I see the lines of people at the McDonald’s here. It’s funny because my French husband used to eat burgers with his hands all the time in the US (it took some time to break him of the knife and fork habit), but as soon as we moved to Paris, he was back to the utensils!

  9. Dear Donut,

    Do you like donuts? I like donuts. What do you think of Zingerman’s donuts, if you’ve tried them? Who makes your favorite donuts?

    – Concerned donut eater

  10. o my, botched the above link. corrected:

  11. Burger it might be, but what a race of burger. Don’t you love the French for specifying exactly what race the beef hails from (Charal). That’s what I love about France – the details!


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