November 1, 2014
Will BBQ And Brownies Kill Off French Cuisine?
Some of the negative comments on social media about the recent opening of a Texas BBQ joint in Paris by a Frenchman got me thinking...
As an expat in France who loves to cook and eat, appreciates everything food related and has been watching the culinary scene in France evolve over the last decade, I've noticed that in recent years there seem to be a lot of expats getting their knickers in a twist over foreigners (e.g. Anglophones who have moved to France and/or French people who have traveled to (mainly) Anglophone countries and have returned to France) opening restaurants or BBQ joints or coffee places that said expats deem to be not "French" enough and will, in their opinion, cause the eventual demise of French cuisine.
Strangely though, if it's a new sushi place, a Mexican restaurant, a Korean joint, an Indian resto or a falafel place, then that's perfectly fine. But put the words "hot dog," "BBQ" or "fish & chips" on the menu and watch the outrage unfold on Facebook and Twitter.
Ironically, the loudest and most resentful voices are usually from those who only spend a couple of months of every year in France (or Paris), from expats who only plan to stay here temporarily or by visitors who think that the French eat nothing but French food, 24/7.
Here's what I don't understand about this whole thing...
If a young chef from, say, Chicago, goes abroad and spends a few years cooking in France then returns to Chicago and opens up a new French restaurant and puts items on the menu that she or he was inspired by and learned to cook while living abroad, do you think that the French expats who live in Chicago run around moaning and complaining that said chef isn't offering dishes that are "American" enough? Or that the food they're putting on their menu will ultimately change Chicago's restaurant scene and its culinary traditions for the worse?
Of course they don't.
Maybe you don't think that Chicago has a cuisine that warrants the same kind of attention as French cuisine? (If you're from Chicago and think it has the most sublime cuisine on the planet, please forgive me, I'm merely using it as an example here)
So for argument's sake, I'll use New Orleans, because there's no denying that it is one of the most unique and amazing food cities in America, home to a long standing, richly layered culinary history.
I can tell you from experience that no Japanese, Spanish, Thai or French expat living there freaks out when a new Japanese, Spanish, Thai or French restaurant opens up.
Yeah, I know. French gastronomy is sacred. It's even registered with UNESCO as an Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.
But if the French are embracing these changes, then who are we étrangers to complain? Paris is a huge, multicultural city and a few new influences like barbecued brisket and donuts aren't going to kill off French cuisine.
Personally, I'm happy to know that I can pop over to Paris and enjoy a delicious French meal one night, a spicy burrito the next and some shrimp dumpling soup the day after. Just like I would be able to do in cities like Seattle, Brussels, London or Barcelona.
You know what they say, variety is the spice of life.
Now please pass the chips and salsa.