Monday, June 24, 2013

Some Would Argue They Don't Serve Food Anyway

If you've ever watched Kitchen Nightmares, or worked in a crappy restaurant, or heard of fast food, you'll know that some restaurants do not make things from scratch. They have food shipped in or pre-bought and more or less just heat it up and slap it on a plate when you order it. Understandably, and for good reason, these places are held in lower regard than places that do make your food from scratch.

But we still think of them as restaurants.

In France, though, one of the food world's cultural centers, they take things far more seriously. Not that pre-prepared food is not rampant there; in fact, according to a recent survey, 31% of restaurants in France admitted (repeat: admitted) to using pre-prepared food, a dramatic ramp-up from where that figure used to be. Not that I know where that number used to be, but it's a lot higher. And this is a very troubling thing to France's food community, who have up to this point made various efforts to build up the restaurants that make things on site, recognizing and defining various words such as 'artisanal',  'fait maison' (in-house), 'free-range', 'natural', 'traditional' and 'pure'. Some of the more notable French chefs have come up with a 'quality restaurant' label for places that make things on-site, tell you where things have come from and give you a welcome at the door.

Now they're going to go the other way. The carrot hasn't worked, so they're going to try the stick, redefining what a 'restaurant' is in the first place. As it stands now, the definition is 'a place where food is served for payment'. An effort is being made right now, through an amendment to a consumer-rights bill, to redefine the term to specifically apply to places that make food fresh and on-site. Bakeries, as of 1995, already have such a thing in place with the word 'boulangerie' (French for bakery).

Needless to say, the fast food industry, which has accounted for 54% of restaurant business in France last year, is bitterly opposed to the legislation, as they would no longer be legally able to call themselves restaurants. Their claim is that it would "confuse" tourists (which, seriously, anyone who needs any further explanation as to what you're getting at a McDonald's are probably beyond help anyway). Pressure from them has, for now, gotten the amendment withdrawn, though that by no means kills the effort.

What would probably help it would be for a nation that prides itself on its food, half of which have said they don't trust restaurants for exactly this reason and 96% of which would support a seal of approval like this one, to not eat at fast-food places over half the time.

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