The French are weird

A workmen’s café in central France was overwhelmed with gourmet customers and TV crews after it was awarded a Michelin star — by mistake, it later turned out.

OK, such things happen.

Prospective customers were astounded when they turned up at the Bouche à Oreille, in the small town of Bourges, to find a cheap and cheerful eatery with red and white polka dot tablecloths, serving a fixed price lunch menu with homemade lasagna or beef bourguignon for about €10 (£8.50).

Right.

The other Bouche à Oreille, in Boutervilliers near Paris, offers linen tablecloths and dishes such as calf’s brain, lobster flan and chocolate pear crisp, with a €48 menu including a glass of champagne.

Weird little Froggies. Seriously, a decent beef stew or a cow’s head? Which would you prefer, which would you pay more for?

36 comments on “The French are weird

  1. Which would you prefer, which would you pay more for?

    Yes but that misses the point of pretentious restaurant reviews. They send all the people impressed by them to far off restaurants where I never have to see them.

    Almost by definition, the family-run cheap’n’cheerful restaurant will have better food and better ambiance. But if everyone knew that, they would be full.

    I mean, seriously – homemade lasagna or calf’s brain? Modern food has become like modern art. More than half of it is just taking the p!ss.

  2. Bollocks SMFS.

    I’ve eaten at flash and ordinary French restaurants for many years. And the nice ones are much nicer. Much nicer.

    They might not be worth the difference in price to you, but it’s bullshit to pretend that ordinary ones are better on principle. I don’t think an Aston Martin is worth the price difference from a Toyota, but I also don’t pretend the Toyota is a better car.

    And brain is delicious. Better than crappy beef stew any day.

  3. Probably the calf’s brain as a once in a blue moon treat, given beef stew in one form or another is a weekly staple at this time of year. Calf’s brains are now difficult to come by, but the Gudgeon kitchen still features fried and braised sweetbreads, pigs’ trotters, tripe, potted cheek, and lots of hearts and livers. Difficult to have grown up in the Black Country during the 50s and 60s and not developed a taste for these ‘exotic’ dishes.

  4. And brain is delicious. Better than crappy beef stew any day.

    That’s simply a matter of taste. I’ll take the stew in ordinary surroundings over offal in some fancy restaurant no matter how many stars it has. Offal is vile to my taste buds no matter how pretty it is laid out on the plate. The best food I’ve enjoyed in France has been in the little establishments out in the middle of nowhere. Comparing it with cars is comparing apples and oranges. You take your pretentious gourmet meal if you wish and you are welcome to it. I’ll take the wholesome, simple €10 bourginion every time, thanks. When it comes to eating out, experience suggests that you do not always get what you pay for.

  5. We once had brains in the station restaurant at Tours. Mahvellous, dahling.

    P.S. There’s something to be said for a country where the station restaurant can be good.

  6. Foodcunts

    Foodcunts are foodcunts, nothing will please them. Travelling through France en route to Morocco (work), my (thankfully) ex-wife complained bitterly about eating bread, cheese and pate en plain.

    Her idea of my work (paying for the fieldwork) was to work through the menu of a French restaurant. Mine was to get on with the job. Foodcunts need to watch their children die, taste a little hunger and learn a little humility.

  7. BiJ: If you drag your (ex) missus along on your work you are likely asking for trouble anyway.

    You should have eaten her liver with…well you know the rest.

  8. “Offal is vile to my taste buds”: ooh, as precious as an American.

    But joking aside, have you seen the ridiculous excuses our Yankee cousins often come up with for not eating offal or, indeed, fish?

    What excuses they give for not hanging their meat properly I don’t know. Our Aussie cousins tend not to hang it properly either.

  9. But that’s somewhat true about all Michelin stuff. Snail Porridge at the Fat Duck in Berkshire, for example.

    France is really good for small eateries. The key to it is menus that hardly change and keeping the menu small. And you can do it cheaply if you do that because you get scale. You can make a load of beef stew.

    We don’t get it right here. Pubs have a huge number of options with Thai food or whatever, and it’s all brought in and microwaved. For cooked on premise food, it means you’re eating at somewhere that’s quite expensive.

  10. “Offal is vile to my taste buds”: ooh, as precious as an American.

    Joking aside, not really. I just don’t like it. Just as I don’t like swede. We all have differing tastes – which is a good thing, isn’t it?

    Apart from the occasional cod and chips, I don’t much like fish or any other seafood, either. Makes me feel sick – literally…

  11. Pubs have a huge number of options with Thai food or whatever, and it’s all brought in and microwaved.

    My work involves travelling and staying away, so means eating out regularly and I long for simple, plain food when the options are fancy stuff I just don’t want.

  12. Have to agree with BiW. I dread eating in the UK. The year obligatory sojourn, the local town had a dozen & a half restaurants. But I loath the pseudo-cuisine amusingly called “Indian”, my idea of Chinese gets served in Lisle Street so that left the blatant lie that is Thai or soggy pasta & pizzas that were mostly crust. Ended up eating at the “Harvester”, where at least it’s named meat, although WTF “jerked” is, I haven’t a clue.
    When the French came over I took them for a “pub lunch”. at a pub “recommended” for same. Sheer fucking embarrassment. Microwaved shit & slow motion service. And a tab make your eyes water.

    I’m minded that England hasn’t had much of a history for “eating out”. Up until the 70s, most people only did so as a “special occasion”. So the English have never really acquired an etiquette for dissenting on what they’re being offered. They don’t like to “make a fuss” & “spoil things”. So you can basically chuck anything at them. The French don’t suffer this impediment.

  13. @ Chester Drawers

    “They might not be worth the difference in price to you, but it’s bullshit to pretend that ordinary ones are better on principle. I don’t think an Aston Martin is worth the price difference from a Toyota, but I also don’t pretend the Toyota is a better car.”

    Except when the Aston Martin in Question is an Aston Martin Cygnet, which is re-badged Toyota IQ for four times the price

    https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Toyota_iQ

    Or, in food terms, it’s the same as a posh restaurant selling chicken soup for £30. It would have to be the soup of the gods themselves to be worth that much

  14. I don’t think an Aston Martin is worth the price difference from a Toyota, but I also don’t pretend the Toyota is a better car.

    Try driving an Aston Martin around in my world for one Ohio winter and then get back to me about whether it’s better than a Toyota.

  15. My hunch is that as gdp per capita rises and the memory of serious poverty dies out, consumption of offal per capita falls. Poor peasant societies use all the animal; rich urban societies eat the best bits and discard the rest. My daughter has some French friends: their grandfather loves offal, his granddaughters won’t touch it.

  16. What do you expect from a nation of people who think dipping snails in garlic and then putting them in their mouths is a good idea? At some point in prehistory, a woggie had to be looking at a snail meandering along, leaving a trail of slime in its wake, and think to himself, “I bet that would taste good!”

    And you know, if the French could actually raise beef cattle efficiently, they wouldn’t have to eat brains and balls for dinner.

  17. At some point in prehistory, a woggie had to be looking at a snail meandering along, leaving a trail of slime in its wake, and think to himself, “I bet that would taste good!”

    Actually…. 🙂

  18. I’d prefer the beef stew. Stew is culturally acceptable and therefore is something I’ve grown up expecting to be food. Who knows, I might actually prefer cow’s head but I have to get over the stigma first.

    I assume I’d pay more for the cow’s head than beef stew. The reason is that not many people want cow’s head and so there will be few suppliers. A lot of people want beef stew so there will be a lot of suppliers. Competition will drive down the prices for beef stew eaters. Lack of competition will benefit cow’s head suppliers.

    Now that my gut reaction is locked in it’s time to see what everyone else had to say.

  19. The French have the lowest per capita consumption of soap and shower gel in the EU. They also have the highest per capita consumption of anal pessaries in the world! (Why would sane people take medication anally rather than orally?)

    Their governing classes (at least) are anti-anglophone, anti-anglosphere and have a cosmic chip on their collective shoulder about (very briefly) Trafalgar, Waterloo and their two US-UK rescues from German domination. And don’t even mention:
    https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Attack_on_Mers-el-Kébir

    And they enjoy a glorified peasant cooking, while presenting it as world class cuisine. (Yet only the poor eat offal, snails, etc.) They present their viticulture as the best in the world on semi-mystical grounds, despite evidence to the contrary (aka the war on terroir).

    Yet members of the left-of-centre middle classes seem to revere the culture of this disgusting people. Let them eat brains and contract CJD…

    *rant over* Apologies!

  20. Is it possible for anyone here to enjoy what they enjoy and let others enjoy what they enjoy without sneering? Or are y’all, whether on the brain or brawn side of the argument, snobs who like sneering at idiots who eat the other thing, for no v better reason than that their tastes are wrong?

  21. France is really good for small eateries. The key to it is menus that hardly change and keeping the menu small. And you can do it cheaply if you do that because you get scale. You can make a load of beef stew.

    This.

    We don’t get it right here. Pubs have a huge number of options with Thai food or whatever, and it’s all brought in and microwaved. For cooked on premise food, it means you’re eating at somewhere that’s quite expensive.

    And this.

  22. “For cooked on premise food, it means you’re eating at somewhere that’s quite expensive.”

    Not true in East Anglia, where there are many country pubs providing good food, cooked on the premises by talented chefs.
    For example:
    http://www.thecrownhartest.co.uk
    Which is owned by local micro-brewery, Brewshed.

  23. @Longrider
    February 19, 2017 at 1:02 pm

    My work involves travelling and staying away, so means eating out regularly and I long for simple, plain food when the options are fancy stuff I just don’t want.

    +1

    I have bought a tin of “major brand” baked beans and given them to waitress with “Ask chef to make me beans on toast please”. Other requests have been Macaroni Cheese, Spag Bol and Fish Fingers, bread & chips.

  24. Chester Draws – “I’ve eaten at flash and ordinary French restaurants for many years. And the nice ones are much nicer. Much nicer.”

    No skin of my nose. I guess our paths will never cross. It is not my experience at all.

    “They might not be worth the difference in price to you, but it’s bullshit to pretend that ordinary ones are better on principle.”

    I think the principle is true of ambiance. I like a place that is not pretentious. I do not like places that seem to feel they need to make you small to make them look big. But I agree it is not true on principle when it comes to food. I think you can have bad cheap places. I think you can have bad very expensive places. I just think that the smaller, family-run places are much more likely to be better. Often much better.

    “And brain is delicious. Better than crappy beef stew any day.”

    By all means, feel free to eat it. All the more for me. I like offal as a rule. But brains seems a step too far. Besides, even the French consumer has voted. And they voted for anything but brains.

    One of the things that happened in my life is that French food got beaten by Italian. When I were a lad, the best food was widely thought to be French. Now it is hard to find any French restaurant outside really big cities right across the English speaking world. But Italian ones are everywhere. I think that French food went the way of modern Art – too pretentious. All about fiddly bits arranged on a plate. While Italian food remained true to its core of feeding hungry farmers after a hard day’s work.

  25. Theophrastus – “Not true in East Anglia, where there are many country pubs providing good food, cooked on the premises by talented chefs.”

    One of the big changes since Thatcher, I think, is the change in pub food. You get some really excellent places now. You also get some places that look really good, have menus that are anything but cheap, but are serving mass produced junk food out of a bag that could be any canteen. And of course there are still any number of places that are really dire.

    I find it hard to tell which is which. I used to think that urban middle class neighbourhoods were likely to be better but that is not true. I used to think that an association with the Campaign for Real Ale might be a factor, but I am less sure now. All I know is that if you know a good pub, it is worth remembering it and coming back. Because the best are very good indeed.

  26. Allow yourself the time to have lunch or dinner at the Brasserie “Le Terminus” oposite the Gare du Nord before catching the Eurostar back to London.

    It may not be the ultimate gastronomic milestone but it’s lively, it’s fun, the food is good and wholesome and it’s not like anything you’ll find in the UK. If you feel like steak-frites at 4 in the monring in Paris, try the Pied de Cochon.

    The culture de la table thing may seem overblown to some but the tradition of families sitting down and eating together has not entirely vanished in France or Italy and the influence is on the whole civilising.

  27. There are plenty of excellent pubs and restaurants in the UK. Even in the provinces.

    I concede that not all are good, but a little research is all that is required. If you are not prepared to put in even minimal effort, you only have yourself to blame for sitting down to a meal in a Harvester.

    Paris has many excellent and pretty reasonable restaurants, some spectacularly expensive ones (which I am assured are also excellent if you are willing and able to splash the cash) but it also has about a million shitty pizza joints.

  28. What’s up with the english these days – my father used to love a bowl of tripe and onions?
    Had tete du veau once, courtesy of anglo/german friends who had turned themselves into french peasant farmers (similar to turning yourselves into an english peasant farmer but affordable)
    Great eating.
    What I really cannot handle is the thought of biting the heads off cute little songbirds (And sitting in rapt silence whilst you do it)

  29. What I like in France is the fact that even in a lowly Flunch, there is varied fresh food, well presented and that the cooks preparing the warm stuff actually give a toss that they do their job well.

  30. I once had lunch (or actually didn’t, as you will see) at a charming little family resto in France when I was living there.

    I ordered duck with prunes. When it arrived, after a couple of mouthfuls, I noticed that the food was moving. In fact it was infested with tiny worms. I called the proprietress over to point this out, trying to speak quietly to not alert the other diners. She was deaf-ish so I had to speak loudly meaning that the whole resto heard me. By sheer coincidence. I knew the French word for worm (ver) because I had looked it up for some reason recently.

    Upshot was that she was unbothered and unsympathetic, said it was fruit fly maggots from the prunes and not the duck, and left me with the impression that I should have been happy to eat them. She offered me a different dish, but by then everyone else at my table had finished and my appetite had gone anyway. She also said something to the other diners which I could not hear, but I assume was something like “he’s English you know, they’re a bit strange”.

    Basically, fvck the French and their arrogance about their overrated “qweezeen”.

  31. BF – there shouldn’t have been any living creatures in prunes which are dried fruit. Mind you, the French word prune actually means ‘plum’ (un pruneau is the French for ‘prune’) but even so, the larvae should stop wriggling once cooked so it’s still rather odd.

  32. BF
    I once ordered some chips in Crete for my young daughter. The vinegar on the table was full of wriggling larvae. I mentioned this to the waiter, who shrugged and said ‘It is the fly’, as if it was of no consequence.

  33. Some people know what they like and are relatively immune from “reviews”

    Others just want to be told what to like.

    It’s not really “French” you know.

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