The following post is made up of A LOT of generalizations. But that’s what makes it funny. At least I think so.
- “How would you like it cooked?”
- “Well done”
- “We won’t do that”
This scene happened in a restaurant famous for its meat in Lyon, France. I am at that restaurant with one of my customers, an American, and he wants his meat well done. Which is like eating melted ice cream. And the waitress says it’s not gonna happen. Americans being used to order what they want, it created some kind of an awkward moment. Especially when the waitress said she’ll see what she can do and the meat arrived less than medium rare.
That’s the difference between France and the US about food. In the US, if you want to eat a sock, someone will cook it for you. In France, we think that you go to a restaurant because you want to eat the food the way that person makes it, not the way you want it.
I’m sorry but most Americans do not understand anything about food. This is why I never trust an American who tells me “I recommend that restaurant” or “the xxxx is so good there”. I’m not saying that some Americans are not “foodies”, I just think we don’t have the same notion of what food is. Most of the time it seems like quantity is more important than quality. A meal is not just a combination of “veggies” and a “protein“. You can’t understand how I hate when I’m told that I have to pick “a protein” or “2 sides”. I mean a meal is a combination of ingredients which creates a wholesome dish. Food is not just what you need to put in your mouth to survive. It’s an experience, it’s a moment that needs to be cherished. Otherwise how different are we than a dog waiting for his boring dog food?
In an American basic restaurant, you don’t even need to check the menu, you know already what you’re gonna have to pick from. As appetizers: wings that you will have to plunge into a blue cheese sauce, nachos which are impossible to grab due to the amount of melted cheese on it, onion rings, fries, cheesy fries, something else that is fried, another fried thing and why not some fried veggies? For the rest, Salads with dressings that would make you regret you thought it was gonna be healthy, Sandwiches with too much meat… with fries, burgers (if they don’t ask you how you want it cooked, you know you shouldn’t have stopped here)… with fries, some salmon with a side of the same exact looking broccoli that you have seen in every goddamned restaurant, 2 pasta dishes with too much cheesy sauce, and the boring vegan option. I’d bet anybody to show me that any of that is not true. In France, for lunch, you can have an Appetizer, an Entree and a coffee (an expresso, not some sock juice that’s been waiting for me to order it since the morning shift) for $20. The same price as a grilled cheese with a coke in the US. Supposedly fresh food, cooked by a cook, not by a guy throwing things into frying oil.
The problem is that I am a sucker for shitty food. Every time I eat out, I want to get the healthiest option, but how can I say no to the Blue Cheese Burger and fries? And when it is the only thing you can pick from, how not to forget what real food is? I mean can you imagine the poor (in the sense that I pity them) American children, who go to school and are forced to eat fried disgusting (for your health) food for breakfast and lunch. Is it more important for a school district to get a partnership with Pizza Hut or Coke than taking care of their community? French food in public schools is better than most US restaurants.
While I’m at it, let me rant about the US restaurant experience. I love the fact that waiters are always kinda nice and always making sure that everything is going well. But come on, is it that hard for you to leave a pitcher of water on my table? The last thing I want is to look for you so that you can poor water into my glass, with too much ice and with a plastic straw that I know will end up in the stomach of some bird somewhere in the pacific ocean. And can you please stop asking me how my food is? I mean, if you see me eating it, there are only 2 possibilities, either it’s good or I’m too tired to cry about the lack of this or that. I won’t change your tip, I swear. So please, let me finish my discussion without interuption. Another thing that is very different for me as a French person, is that every time I go to the restaurant with Americans, they talk to the waiters and at the end of the meal we all know each other’s life. I love it, but it’s pretty rare in France. Either the waiter is too rude or too busy or I am.
Life is not complicated, we only need to do 3 things to survive. Eat, pray, love. Just kidding. If you put aside the uncontrollable breathing, we need to eat, drink (water) and get it all out. How come Americans have the first 2 so wrong? I’ve been talking about eating, but drinking is the same. Americans have the belief that water is boring. But your body’s system is boring, it doesn’t mean you should drink Coke over water. The thing is that Americans are always the worst and the best at everything. You can find the most healthy people on earth here, because they have such a great discipline and you will have the worst ones, who are eating so much that they can’t get out of their own bed. In between, you have the ones just like me who are doing their best to eat well most days but end up eating the same shit as everybody else. And then you have the weirdos. I have tried juicing for a couple weeks because America and my lack of discipline (and beer) really started to make me fat. I was thinking that juicing was the best way to lose weight and be healthy. But what is healthy about putting liquid food into your body? As I said before, food is not just being fed, it is an experience that you should enjoy. And juicing has no appeal. It’s just a trend for people who are too lazy to cook, too lazy to get a fork to put food in their mouth but still want to avoid eating shit. I mean if you try to lose 100 pounds, why not, but otherwise, there is nothing cleansing about this. You’d have the same effects eating your own salads where you can taste shit. Then you have the soylent guys, who really are like rat labs. Why take a lunch break when you can keep typing your code and still getting the nutrients you need. That’s sick. Or the people who think that gluten is bad for you just because Gwyneth Paltrow mentioned it in her last book “You can be thin and healthy too”. Unless you have Celiac disease (which can be deadly btw), you are fine.
In the end, eating should be a great moment of joy, taste and discovery. I get that if you do not have time or money, the Wendy’s 4for4 is the better option. But then school should at least provide another side of the food ideal. Eating veggies and fruits is not that expensive. Making a coherent meal is not that difficult. When you pick what to eat, you should not think “I need 2 sides and one protein”. Your dish might contain these, but you need to envision the coherence of these pieces together, not the supposedly health benefits of them individually. If it’s not fried, if it’s not full of added sugar, it won’t kill you. And if you made it yourself it’s even better. Trust me, I’m French.