For better or for worse, there’s no denying that American fast food has become arguably as popular in France as it is back home. If you live in a city, there’s always a KFC, a Pizza Hut, or a McDonald’s in the neighborhood. What’s interesting from an American perspective is how these places can feel simultaneously so familiar and so foreign. The idea, of course, is to take an American brand and make it appeal to a French consumer, so sometimes you end up with some interesting cross-cultural creations. Some are very clear efforts to transform traditional favorites. Take, for example, the one that even made the news back in the States: Continue reading Even Americans Want a Taste
I often complain about sticker shock in France, and with good reason. Everything here — except for French wine — is more expensive than it is back in the States. Part of the explanation for that is the TVA (or VAT, “value added tax” in English), which approaches 20% for some things. Another reason is that the cost of production is just higher here. For an American, the sticker shock can sometimes be eye-popping, even before converting the price you’re looking at into dollars. Translation: to appreciate the true impact on your wallet, tack on another 30% if you’re spending money you earned in dollars.
I commented on this most recently in my post about the Pumpkin Spice Latte at Starbucks. Everybody already knows that the prices at Starbucks are simply outrageous, but Starbucks in Europe is just a whole other story. I mean, a tall latte for $6 is off the rails — not that it prevented me from buying one last week. After all, c’est la vie here in France; after a while, you just get used to it. These days, I’m completely accustomed to paying $3.50 for an espresso and $14 for a cocktail, getting one hour of talk time with unlimited texts and data for $60 a month, and thinking that a $12 Chipotle burrito isn’t too bad a price.
But last week, I stumbled across this: Continue reading Hot Dogs, Bagels, and Sticker Shock
Thursday, I wrote how ecstatic I was about the opening of a Chipotle Mexican Grill here in Paris because I could finally get my Mexican fast food fix. Obviously, like any great international city, Paris has an array of good Mexican restaurants, but every now and then, you just crave that mass-produced, no-surprise flavor you get from fast food. Before coming to live in Paris, I had become a big fan of Chipotle, so when I first heard that they’d opened a location here, I made plans to go there for the lunch the very next day.
Now, before I get to my review of Chipotle Paris, I should note for those of you who are not aware that American fast food often undergoes a slight transformation when it crosses borders and oceans. It makes sense, I guess, that fast food restaurateurs want to ensure, while staying true to the brand, that what they serve overseas will also appeal to the local palate. I’ll never forget the first time I encountered this as a high school student traveling to London in 1989. After just a few days of subsisting on the rather bland English fare served up at our hotel, a few of us set out on a foraging mission to find something quintessentially American. (After all, you can only eat roast beef and garden peas for so long.) We descended on the first Pizza Hut we could find, already salivating over the Super Supreme pan pizzas we were going to order. We weren’t at all prepared to find on the menu such “foreign” creations as prawn pizza or chicken and sweet corn pizza. The same is true in France, of course, where even KFC and McDonald’s offer several menu items that were clearly dreamed up by a kitchen team with absolutely no American members. Take for instance, the most recent addition to the French “McDo” (pronounced “mac-doe”) menu:
As an American living in France, I’ve come to appreciate the culinary delights of this culture (the vegetarian-friendly ones, at least):
- flaky pain au chocolat
- chewy nougat with pistachios
- sheep’s milk cheese that hasn’t been pasteurized
- crispy galettes de sarrasin stuffed with reblochon, crème fraîche, and mushrooms, and—of course—
- the baguette de tradition, fresh from the baker’s oven.
Even so, my expatriate palate still longs for the familiar, even mundane flavors of home:
- cheap and readily accessible peanut butter
- Krispy Kreme donuts (because, I’m sorry y’all, but a French beignet can’t even touch a Krispy Kreme donut)
- pimento cheese on white bread (because I’m from the South, if you didn’t pick up on that from the “y’all” I just dropped)
- a veggie “burger” that doesn’t consist of a potato pancake stuffed with peas and carrots, and—of course—
- Mexican fast food.
Well, I am pleased to report that I can now cross
Mexican fast food off the list! Today, thanks to a fellow blogger’s post in the Americans in Paris Facebook group, I made the joyous discovery that Chipotle Mexican Grill has opened a location right here in Paris! (Click here to read her review and see pictures from Chipotle Paris.) I may not be able to find pimento cheese or good donuts here, but I can now gorge on quality, mass-produced guacamole to my heart’s content!
I’m often asked if it’s hard being a vegetarian in Paris. The question makes a lot of sense. After all, when you think of French cuisine, you probably conjure up images of bœuf bourguignon, coq au vin, foie gras, even escargots. And ham, well, ham is practically its own food group here. The truth is, though, that between cheese crêpes and savory tarts (as long as there are no lardons in there), I’ve never really had much trouble finding something to eat. But one of the best things about being a vegetarian in Paris isn’t even French …
it’s falafel. Continue reading Lenny Kravitz’s Favorite Falafel