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Fast Food Growth Leads French Lawmakers to Seek Protectionist Measures

Bistro in Marais District of Paris

Flickr/Richard TaylorBistro in Marais District of Paris

The French have a justfiably deep-rooted attachment to their culinary tradition -- at times viewing any threat, for example in the form of fast food, with their defenses dialed way up. According to the Associated Press, it'd appear this anxiety has not dissipated, as some of the country's lawmakers are seeking measures to ensure the quality of traditional (mid-range) restaurants, which are viewed as falling by the wayside due to competition from fast food.

The news agency reports that French lawmakers, among them Daniel Fasquelle, want to pass a "measure that would require restaurants to print fait maison -- or homemade -- on menus next to dishes that were created from scratch." The bid is set to undergo a vote in the Senate, after getting passed in the lower house, come September.

Another measure proposed -- that ultimately failed to pass -- would have drawn a stricter definition of 'restaurant' as an establishment where over 50% of the food served is made on site. Fasquelle and like-minded lawmakers plan to reintroduce the proposal again this fall.

In order to stay competitive, mid-range restaurants, Fasquelle believes, are relying on "a pair of scissors and a microwave -- reheating outsourced ready-made meals." Lawmakers theorize that their proposed measures will help maintain a standard of "true cuisine."

In contrast, the average French worker faces the more immediate problem of trying to stretch as much value from their Euros as possible. As a result, more workers are choosing fast food options or even homemade lunches over the bistro around the corner.

To meet the needs of workers facing a lunch break that's been shortened on average from 90 to 22 minutes, bakers have begun to serve easy meals at boulangeries in Paris. Megamart chain Carrefour has introduced options under the category of "snacking." As described on one blog, Entre Midi & Deux, this line includes salads, sandwiches and cakes.

This means both quick boulangerie meals and market "snacking" options are considered fast food in France. Suffice it to say, it's an altogether different meaning than here in the U.S. where a McDonald's or Burger King is not only not hard to find, but chains are often coming up with gems in which a waffle takes place of a tortilla for a breakfast taco made of sausage and eggs. Would that our idea of fast food was a baguette with ham and butter.

And in related news:

- Is French Cuisine Becoming American?

- Cookbook of the Week: The Complete Bocuse, Easter Wines + A Hay-Cooked Ham (!) Recipe


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