I’ve said elsewhere, and maybe even here, that I got off the plane at Orly (there was no Roissy-Charles de Gaulle Airport then) having time-traveled twenty years into the past. Television had only two channels and programs didn’t run all day long. Channel 2 (Antenne 2) - created only the day before (in 1964) - started and signed off around midnight with an animation of seven flying men in blue coats, images by famous Belgian artist Jean-Michel Folon.
But the changes between France and the U.S. weren’t limited to television. Now you can get a phone line overnight, instead of waiting up to two years for one as was the norm back then. And the little blue local telegrams (pneumatiques) that stood in for phone calls have disappeared. Almost all the Métro lines have been extended beyond the city limits and into the banlieues rouges, the working class suburbs ringing Paris, which aren’t so working class anymore. And long gone are the days when schoolboys went to class in short pants and the ceremony of the first pair of long pants was a rite of passage to adulthood tantamount to the African circumcision ceremonies - but far more merciful.
|The nameless café I just call "Chez Maria"|
Those are just a few of the changes that spring to mind.
|A simple, but lovely omelette|
One thing that has changed less is French gastronomy. But even there, the camel has his nose under the tent. With women working in two-paycheck families, frozen foods have made enormous inroads. Hamburgers can be found anywhere, not just at the now-disappeared WimpyBurger, a British fast-food joint that broke France's Burger Barrier in the late Sixties. And Mickey D (here known as McDoh) is present in pretty much every corner of France, including the far-flung ones. Even coffee isn’t safe from Yankee invasion, with Starbucks giving the old French café a run for its money, although why you’d want to drink an American cup of java in France surpasses my mental capabilities, but then I’m a tea drinker anyway, so...
Earlier today I was watching “Jacques and Julia”, the PBS cooking show that married Julia Child with Jacques Pépin for a series of fights about black pepper vs white and the use of garlic or not. The theme of the day was steaks, and they made five sorts. (Well, four actually because the hamburger was the fifth.) Their recipes included the classic steak Diane, steak au poivre (pepper steak) and steak Bistro. It reminded me of what I came to consider Fast Food, French Style.
|Brandade de morue, |
with side salad
All this to say that you don’t have to take two hours for a meal in France. You can get delicious fast food, French style. So eat your heart out, McDonald’s! This is a whole other ball game.
|Ancien Hôtel Baudy, in Giverny|