Saturday, February 16, 2008

Diverging Yet Merging

Malbouffe: the great France-U.S. divide?
In his book Manger: Français, Européens et Américains face à l’alimentation, French sociologist Claude Fischler analyzed the eating habits of 6,000 people in six countries: France, Italy, Germany, Switzerland, Great Britain and the U.S. [review in Le Monde].

No big surprises here: the average French or Italian privileges quality and conviviality, while the average American goes for speed, size, and individual satisfaction. Europeans privilege structured, seated meals; Americans munch their way through the day. Continental Europeans derive pleasure from food, its flavor and combination; Anglo-Saxons see it as fuel -- the more the better.

But wait: isn't this an outdated caricature? Even if there is some truth in the contrasted approach to food between this country and Europe, eating habits are converging -- especially in the metropolitan areas, and not necessary for the best as far as Europe is concerned. Fischler argues that in Europe, the meal still remains a ritual whose ingredients and sequence are carefully orchestrated, while processed and take-away fare rules here. Yet, that's changing too -- unless you live in BFN on either side of the pond.

The French may still refer to food as "pleasure" five times more than Americans, but the foodie ranks and opportunities are growing here, while fast food outlets are making record profits in Europe -- wiping out the bistro culture in their path. And where is McDonalds opening its first Feng Shui lounge? Los Angeles. Not Paris. Nor Rome.
illustration Google Images