“French-ifying” the No-Go Zones

Over 3 million people across France gathered to march in tribute to the victims of the January 2015 terrorist attacks

Over 3 million people across France gathered to march in tribute to the victims of the January 2015 terrorist attacks

The recent events in Paris surrounding the Charlie Hebdo attacks have sparked a series of intense conversations about immigration, integration, tolerance, religion, and free speech in France. These conversations range from constructive and thought-provoking to ignorant and downright offensive. One such “controversial” voice in the conversation is Fox News, which infamously issued a report denoting “no-go zones,” neighborhoods in Paris characterized by a heavy concentration of Muslim residents.

Nolan Peterson on the "no-go zones," Fox News

Nolan Peterson reporting for Fox News on the supposed “no-go zones” in Paris

While this report in and of itself was offensive, inaccurate, and short-sighted, the responses to it sparked a different sentiment. Parisians were quick to defend their neighborhoods, and in doing so looked to assert the “safeness” of these no-go zones by proving just how French they are. One such rebuttal was taken up by popular food blog, Continue reading

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France, Going Organic

Organic Radishes

Organic French Radishes

The organic industry is finding a home – and a burgeoning market – in the land of haute cuisine.

Last post I discussed the French “diet,” or lack thereof. I contrasted health-obsessed calorie-counting America with croissant-loving wine-drinking France, and delved into some of the reasons for France’s better health despite the tradition of fat and carbs. Ultimately the piece concluded with a question about France’s dietary future: with the influx of industrial agricultural techniques and food systems, fast food, supermarkets, and processed foods, will France be able to maintain its healthy, fresh bread-loving lifestyle, or will the influx of easily and cheaply obtained packaged foods begin to reflect the American trend towards obesity? Continue reading

The French Diet: An Oxymoron

French Pastries

French Pastries

After spending a collective seven months in France over the past two years, I’ve come to the conclusion that health fads and diet trends are nearly nonexistent here.

I grew up in the Bay Area, the birthplace of the organic food movement in America and a haven for many of its contemporary advocates such as Michael Pollan and Alice Waters. I completed my undergraduate education at University of California Los Angeles, located in the center of image and health obsessed Beverly Hills, where juicing and Soul Cycle are considered the norm. You would think that Paris, a global city that considers itself the fashion capital of the world, teeming with models and celebrities and power players in the sphere of high society, would have developed its own set of according trends when it comes to diet and exercise. In the United States, we have seen waves of Continue reading

Halal Meat: Permissible, or Forbidden?

A halal butcher shop in France

A halal butcher shop in France

If you find yourself wandering around certain parts of Paris, you’ll start to see various butchers and restaurants with the word “halal” attached to their name. Unlike kebabs, the politics of which I discussed in my last post, halal meat does have a direct relationship to and implication of Islam. The term “halal” means “permissible” or “allowed,” and refers to meat that is prepared in a specific way (for example, killed by hand and blessed), and without contact to other “forbidden” meats or cuts (such as pork, or hindquarters). Of course it is a bit more complicated than that – the Halal Wikipedia page has a more thorough definition – but for our purposes, it is enough to simply understand the essential relationship between halal meat and religion.

As with kebabs, there has been controversy over halal meat in France – perhaps even more so. In 2012, then-president Nicolas Sarkozy and far-right Front National leader Marine Le Pen both spoke out in favor of Continue reading

The Other Fast Food: Kebabs

Doner Kebab

Typical Doner Kebab (Wikimedia Commons)

Before fast food, there was street food.

One of the most prolific street food items throughout the Middle East is the kebab, a flatbread sandwich filled with meat sliced from a rotating spit. If you’ve been to Europe since 1990 (and perhaps found yourself out at a late hour with one too many drinks in your system) you are probably familiar with the kebab, sold from tiny shops stuck in between electronics stores and Laundromats, displaying that golden tower of slowly rotating mystery meat prominently in the front window.

I have grown to love the Parisian Kebab, the majority of which are Turkish and come with a generous pile of frites stuffed into the center and smothered in a mayonnaise-based white sauce, modifications that have acted as a sort of “hybridization” to appeal to French customers. Like pizza and now the hamburger, kebabs have grown in popularity and shops have grown in number as globalization intensifies the flow of cultures, people, and objects throughout the world. But unlike pizza or hamburgers, both of which have Continue reading

The Future of French Wine, Part Deux

French Bordeaux wine from Château Pétrus, from as early as 1945 and selling for as much as 3290€ (Wikipedia)

French Bordeaux wine from Château Pétrus, from as early as 1945 and selling for as much as 3290€ (Wikipedia)

Climate isn’t the only thing affecting the French wine industry. As with almost anything in today’s hyper-globalized world, French wines are entirely dependent on the market, which is looking more and more foreign than before. With changing regulations, shifts in consumer demands, and a less-than-stellar economic climate as of late, the French wine industry is experiencing some significant changes – or trying (in vain) to resist these changes.

The bottom line is that France is producing less wine, and drinking less wine. Production and consumption rates have fallen in the past few years. While lower production is largely related to the environmental concerns discussed in my last post (as well as a government-implemented scheme to reduce surpluses in order to keep French wine competitive), the reason for falling consumption is less clear. The most feasible answer points to Continue reading

The Future of French Wine

French wine in those traditional (tiny) glasses

French wine in those traditional (tiny) glasses

Could climate change ruin French wine?

Along with cheese and bread, wine is another national symbol of French culture (and superiority). As the world’s top exporter of wine, France is globally renowned by consumers and professionals alike for its high quality wines and the regions they are named after – Bordeaux, Burgundy, Champagne, Alsace, Côtes du Rhône, to name a few. But in recent years, scientists have voiced concerns about Continue reading