Friday, September 23, 2016

Voici Des Francais

The French have the best of everything, food , wine and fashion. We see their lives as the greatest, filled with croissants and champagne, Jean-Paul Gautier and the House of Chanel. Yet there's another side of France that also exists - and a new book chronicles this.It's an eye opener for those who love Gallic ideas and l'alimentaire.

 Olivier Magny , a wine expert, entrepreneur and author has just written a  sharply witty guide to understanding all things Gallic, WTF - What The French (New American Library Publishers 2016) opens up a world of life in the City of Light and the Country of Fine Dining Monsiuer Magny has written about every aspect of life, from phrases such as ca va (used a lot) to the French's blase attitude to nudity and cigarettes.Of course some of the most insightful observations come from the chapters highlighting food and wine.The chapter on supermarkets was both eye opening and interesting.I didn't know that the French frequented supermarkets as often as us Yanks do. Most travel articles show endless miles of open air markets called les marches, however it's the big box supermarkets that garner much of a French home chef's business. They do have a wine aisle which is unheard of here in the States  (American grocery stores that do sell wines  usually locate them in a small corner that has its' own entry and exit) along with a generous cheese aisle.Unlike the States where grocery shopping is usually fun, the French see it through a dark lens, There's some guilt in going to a store that exploits farmers along with eating up the smaller, more charming food shops. The last still exists, thankfully and there are still butchers, along with patisseries  and bread bakers.

M. Magny also delves into the french passion for yogurt (!) and Nutella.It comes as another surprise that the country who  gave the world creme fraiche is so hung up on yogurt. It usually us Americans who have cups and popsicles of the stuff in our fridges and freezers.It's caught on there, probably  thanks to Danone, the parent  company of Dannon Yogurt. All fridges have a cup or two. The French have high standards for it, and French yogurt can be seen as healthy or as a dessert - that's how good it is.They even add powdered sugar to the plain one or yaourt nature , mostly to end a meal. The second obsession is Nutella. Anyone born in the mid Seventies and up grew up on the chocolate hazelnut blend.It's put on everything, from croissants to crepes to bread. The passion does ebb as they get older and then it's something to try on holiday. .The French still have their passion for bread, especially the baguette. There's also chapters on fast and slow foods McDonald's is big  but so are kabob shops and boulangeries have expanded their menus to include sandwiches and lunch menus. The country still has a big restaurant culture but there's also a need to eat at home too. Home chefs do;t make fancy meals,preferring salad, pasta or even yogurt. The more elaborate meals are saved for Sundays and family gatherings.

WTF What The French is a fun romp through French life and culture.Olivier Magny has captured his people's quirks and love of food and wine. It's the perfect gift for the Francophile foodie! Vraiment!

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