Monday, June 2, 2008

Food Is Art Too


First of all I can't help but making a few comments about French food versus American food because the difference in quality is striking. This alone would be reason enough to consider moving. OK, I admit to be hopelessly spoiled. My parents introduced me and my brother to the finest French cuisine from a very young age. Each time we travelled in France, my mother searched through the latest Guide Michelin, instructing my dad, who drove the car, along detours to exceptional restaurants that had promising ratings. The result is that since I moved to the North American continent, I have been mostly complaining in disappointment about food quality, especially when dining out. It all starts with the produce. For example, here in Austin, we shop at the best and most expensive gourmet grocery stores in town, Central Market and Whole Foods. They pride themselves to offer the best and freshest produce available. Croissants at these stores are greasy and inflate after a couple of hours. Strawberries taste like water. They are invariably white on the inside and if the current trend continues, I am sure a few years from now they will need to be boiled before consumption because they become increasingly harder to bite in. I already do no longer buy peaches, melons or bananas because most of the time they are mealy inside and disgustingly tasteless. Even good apples are becoming hard to obtain. In North America shelf life is more important than taste. I heard that fruits are exposed to gasses to make them look ripe on the outside. And the bigger the better. It's always about size with American products.
I won't even mention meat products and how the presence of excessive amounts of fat and growth hormones in American meat products affect human appearance. It is scary.
In France, on the other hand, the strawberries were lusciously soft, juicy, fragrant, full of rich taste ....and naturally decaying the following day! I ate the best peaches in years and couldn't get enough of the bread and chocolate croissants. The eggs were tasty and fresh. Most of these items were locally grown. And guess what ... I pulled my partner into a butcher shop to show that real filet mignon is not marbled with fat. Actually, red dominated as color in the entire raw meat section. No wonder the French retain such lean figures at any age.

Most Americans don't eat. They feed. They do not care and/or know about fine food and table etiquette. Most restaurants employ ignorant students to wait tables. Do not expect fresh silverware with each course and most restaurants do not own fish forks, fish knives or real glasses for water. Expect a plastic or styrofoam beaker for drinks in most middle-range establishments. Restaurant kitchens are in general, sometimes horribly, dirty, especially in Austin, TX. There are several very popular restaurants in this city where I refuse to eat because of unclean premises. There are of course exceptions to this grim picture, but those are a vast minority.

So what a refreshing experience to eat in France again, where pride in food quality and table manners still reign.


3 comments:

Kim Steele said...

Chris,
I am always so relieved to hear other people complain about the trend towards a decrease in the quality of the food we are eating. Sometimes when I'm at the grocery store, I am in despair. The difference is that I live in France! We too are rapidly eating more and more food that is overprocesed, packaged, with little taste. Where has the enjoyment gone? I'm working on a website in my personal combat against this trend:
http://www.easy-french-food.com
You are one lucky guy getting the deluxe tour of French restos with your family - me it was the US and Denny's was my favorite. Ugh!
Kim

Chris De Dier said...

Kim,
What we're experiencing is unfortunately not going to get any better, to the contrary. Artisanal small scale production is on the decline everywhere. Profit driven corporations are taking over and dictating the decreasing quality of our lives. Overpopulation is part of the blame, but politics are resonsible for it. What I don't get is why so many people just accept all this crap and eventually get so used to it that anything different scares them.
I love your website!

Anonymous said...

He Chris

You almost made me homesick by telling about Paris amd all that food.

Glad you still remember those days.

Wasn't it nice?