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  • Writer's pictureCoco

Are the French Gaining Weight with the New “FAD”?

Updated: Jul 14, 2019

The last few times I was in France, I must admit, I was shocked to see what happened to the traditional “jambon-beurre” (crunchy on the outside, moist on the inside baguette bread cut lengthwise, buttered, with a couple of slices of delicious “jambon de Paris” ham). As I was walking down the beautiful boulevards in the City of Lights, I glanced at the terrasses de café only to see burgers and more burgers on everybody’s plates. This is not an assault on burgers – I like good burgers! – but it is a reflection of a newer trend in France. As of today, the traditional, institutional “jambon-beurre” is no longer the king of sandwiches. The burger now is, passing its incumbent by two percent.

French chefs know how to accommodate the basic patty and can surely turn it into an amazing ensemble of colors and tastes that defeat the toughest antagonist’s critique. However, the addition of fancy tapenade, artichoke confit, caramelized onions, sautéed mushrooms and shrimp-reduction tartar sauce turns the basic burger into an astonishingly rich gourmet burger at an additional cost of hundreds of calories. Ouch! Even more amazing is the side order of French fries… The French would never have had French fries or potato chips with a sandwich twenty years ago. Adding a starch product to another starch product was a well-known dietary mistake.

The fact is, the French like to follow all American, good and bad, trends. Keeping up with America seems more important nowadays than staying healthy. Twenty years ago, the “jambon-beurre” was not served with anything else, except a paper napkin. It was a 400-calorie staple. It was lunch. The “French” burger being twice as calorific, one can only imagine what it is doing to the French population. In the same way, the small individual 5” pizza has been replaced by an average 9” fully loaded gargantuan pizza. Enormous oleaginous pastries and salty snacks are punctuating the course of the day. Ice-cream and sweets have replaced the after-dinner fresh fruit. Heavy lunch, late dinner, a predominance of gluten, lipids, and starch in one meal, are paving the way to a health crisis. Diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease are already rampant in France and keep increasing.

Standing in front of the magazine rack at the train station, I noticed that most publication covers were about weight loss. Mmh, not a surprising correlation, but a subject of great concern and, admittedly, disappointment. The “French women don’t get fat” myth no longer reflects today’s reality.

France traditionally connotes good food, but good food does not always mean healthy food. It has certainly evolved since the Middle Ages – From medieval banquets to “cuisine moderne”, it has made a lot of steps, some healthier than others. For example, the superb and lean “nouvelle cuisine” originated from the less nutritionally conscious “cuisine traditionnelle”. As a result, we can be hopeful that the current swing, what I call the “FAD” (French American Diet) will morph into a good, healthy, bi-cultural cuisine, a new genre of French cuisine with an American twist that will promote quality and wellness instead of quantity and illness.

It does not have to succeed the “cuisine française”. Rather, it can be yet another choice for a fun night out. The “bio” (organic food) movement is certainly gaining momentum in supermarkets and specialized stores in France. Is it in response to the “FAD”? Will the “bio cuisine” be the next trend and the new name then? Only time will tell. In the meantime, I will look for the “jambon-beurre” and stand firm for its survival as I watch my fellow citizens savor their 1,200 + calorie gourmet burgers and their 350 + calorie serving of… French fries. Bon appétit!

If you would like to read more about the new trends in France, please go to:

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