Sunday, October 9, 2011

The decline of France

There’s been much hand-wringing in recent years about France’s culinary and cultural standards falling. That Frenchies today eschew sit-down lunches at bistros for pre-made salads (or Quick burgers!) on the go. That boulangeries no longer bake from scratch but rather buy industrial dough. That things aren’t as civilized and food isn’t as fresh and la belle vie just isn’t as it used to be.

I never used to let it rustle me because everything is relative. Coming from New York, Paris was still packed with plenty of little holes in the wall where men in suits and little old ladies ate bifteaks and omelettes. Cafes and tabacs were always packed in the evening with everyone enjoying an apero before heading home to supper. Life was great and food was delicious as far as I was concerned.

But on my most recent stroll down rue Montorgueil, the alarm bells were ringing. When I lived there, sure, a couple fast-food joints opened. But mostly it was a glorious stretch of café life…

…beautiful fruits and veggies…

and les fleuristes et cavistes with charm and beauty.

This time? More fast food.

American imports.

And, yuck!, a nasty cheap shoe store—a frightful harbinger of things to come.

Here's to the artisanal boulangeries, indie cafes and free spirits winning out.


  1. There is a Kiehles in Buenos Aires, there are McCafes and McDonalds and TGIF ( please, God, why ?? why ??) and various other crap food places that we never went to in the US either.
    But there are still more good places ( cafes, parrillas, good restaurants and small out of the way tiny cafes ) than the cheap bad food imported ...
    Let people all over the world taste something .. then let them decide if they want to keep eating it or enjoy what they have ( which is almost always much better) ..
    You can by Starbucks coffee here, but the real cafes with real coffee are jammed all the same.
    They can all live together ..
    Choice wins out :)

  2. In Spain there seems to be forces pulling in both directions—hardly with equal force, unfortunately. There are lots of new restaurants, boutique bakeries, and cool cafés attempting to steer tastes towards innovative and high quality food. On the other side is the race towards mediocrity: the Applebee-ization of Valencia (an evil concept deserves a horrible name). I fight this trend one step at a time: one exciting meal at a new restaurant , one loaf of artisan bread, one glass of local wine(Requena-Utiel), and one wallet-emptying visit to a specialty food store. If Mario Batali and Che Guevarra had a baby about a half a century ago that baby could be me (I know that doesn’t make any sense but it might be a cool t-shirt).

  3. I agree, but you left our Starbucks......yuck! WHY???? I'll take a small cafe any day. I can eat junk at home!
    Vive la France!

  4. Say it ain't so :( I suspect the sweet little mom and pops are being sold to the cheapie 'made in china' shops and fast food eateries. Still not the case in le marais and praying it never will be...

  5. It pains me to see that nasty shoe store. Quick has been there since I've lived in Paris and while it sickens me, I get over it because the rest of the street has been so wonderful. I can even deal with the "gourmet" take-out places. But that shoe store... someone clearly doesn't care about city branding....

  6. I noticed that too with Rue Mouffetard! What a shame!! :( It's definitely changed within the four years since I was last there. Shame Shame!

  7. I lived in Paris for nearly 6 years on the rue Tiquetonne. I visit Paris every year and always stay in the same 'hood and have been very very saddened to see the decline - starting with the Starbucks a few years ago :( Lindsey's right - that shoe store is an abomination. If only Montorgueil could go back to 1995 the way it was when I lived there......