A true Foodball fan.
If you are a frequent reader of this blog you might think that I have a one-track mind. We have an idiom for people whose main interest is food. We call them "un estomac sur pattes" (A stomach on feet). Their anatomy is in a sense reduced to its quintessence...
So you might call me so, but I have been willing to write this post for quite a while now. In fact, since I started working in this country. The reason of such a determination? A simple line in my contract stating that I would benefit from a 30 minute lunch break every day... But honestly, is eating a sandwich in front of your computer "a break", and even more "a lunch"?
French are said to overspend hours enjoying their meal with a bottle of red wine. And this caricature has probably some legitimacy. However, I am not one of those. On the contrary, I would probably compete for a place in the fast-track eater national team, should it exist. But still, the time I allocate to this subsistence need is valued. It might be short, but it is intense.
On the other hand, when my colleagues swallow beans on toast, jacket potato with beans or even beans à la beans... I am circumspect. They seem to be driven by a constant rush with no regard to the quality of what is ingested. Lunch is obviously considered from a physiological perspective, and a sandwich or a tin of bean as a convenience... There is no time to waste at appreciating the nutriments that are thrown in your throat, that is simply not the point.
Very Fast food.
But this goes beyond time saving. It reaches deeper considerations than simply "business first"... It is a major cultural difference. While Brits approach food as a mean to fulfill natural needs, we entitle it with more spiritual a value.
Let's take a real-life example: I invited some friends at home and cooked them a dinner. Same menu, different audiences. The reaction of the guests strongly differed depending on the cultural background. Most of locals would indeed welcome the food with fork and knife in hands, ready to tuck in. Eventually, if delighted, they will compliment the chef for the tasty meal. Eat first, appreciate then.
My compatriots tend to welcome the first dishes with its lot of congratulations and of impressed nods, especially if some efforts have been done to set the plate nicely... It is part of an unsaid protocol. More precisely a ritual with its codes. It aims at recognising the efforts of the host, even before having even gulp the first bite. There is probably a great dose of conventions (and hypocrisy) behind this, but still. Good or bad, there is a profound respect for the food, its preparation, its dressing and the moment implied by its tasting. The table is some kind of an altar to the god of food.
This later image is fully pondered. There is actually a quasi-religious relationship towards food. This T-Shirt is quite relevant in that sense (and can be bought here). Tartiflette is indeed a traditional dish from the French Alps... and is absolutely divine! Rich, but divine.
But back to the symbol. If Canadian sew their flag on their backpack, we prefer to refer to our food as an evidence of our origins. Food unite us all. I encourage the British readers of this post who have the "chance" to welcome several French elements in their company to study their behaviour at lunch time. You should see them like pilgrims heading in groups to their holy restaurant. They will call Christelle from finance, wait for Jean from logistics, investigate about Julien... But in no case one will be left behind.
And if one of them turns up at the next door sandwich store, on his own, you can be sure that he is an heretic. He must have been tempted by the dark side of this country, and tried Marmite. They call it integration... And frankly, sometimes it's frightening!