Le Big-Mac et le Royal

The other day circumstances dictated the necessity of having an early lunch out, but most restaurants won’t serve lunch before noon. What comes to mind immediately? Of course! Mickey D’s. No, not the Mickey D of @The_Phatcave fame, but Vincent’s Mickey D’s of Pulp Fiction fame. Do you remember the epic hamburger conversation?

Partial quote: “No man, they got the metric system. They wouldn’t know what the f… a Quarter Pounder is.”

Vincent taught us that in France a Quarter Pounder is ‘le Royal’, whereas the Big Mac remains ‘le Big-Mac’. It’s all true, I checked it out. And before you start your lecture on the evils of eating at McDonald’s, take a deep breath and stuff it. We quite like eating at McDonald’s every now and then. Especially when traveling, their breakfast sandwiches are a delicious treat. Unfortunately, there is no breakfast menu here in France, which takes care of that temptation, only to be replaced by buttery croissants and pain aux raisins, which isn’t exactly health food either.

The McDonald’s Est in Saintes was quite a surprise. Even though we live in a small town of only about 27000 inhabitants, this was the most electronically advanced fast food restaurant, I’ve ever visited. Upon entering you have the choice of eight touch screens to order your meal.

McD.01-8708The automata are ever so cleverly shaped like smart phones, so everyone feels right at home with their use. One’s personal smartphone can also be used to pre-order for pick-up in the drive-through lane, or one can scan codes for nutritional information, allergy warnings, or sweepstake offers with the phone’s QRReader app. But have no fear, one old-fashioned register remains for fuddy-duddies, who aren’t quite as smart as their telephones.

McD.02-8706I ordered something that immediately caught my interest and which didn’t disappoint, le McWrap Chèvre. A galette, a very thin wheat pancake, filled with soft, sweet lettuce in a citrusy dressing and medallions of fried goat cheese. It was delicious and right up my alley for flavor and texture. It did provide 546 Kcal of energy, but I don’t think that’s overdoing it for lunch.

And speaking of kilo-calories, living a healthy lifestyle is a global concern and the French government began the implementation of a national program for public nutrition and health education in 2001.

McD.03-8704If you look closely at the touch panel above, you’ll see a warning listed right beneath the enticing desserts: For your health, avoid snacking between meals. More importantly it also gives the website of MangerBoucher, which means EatExercise. This links to the agency dedicated to keeping the populace healthy, both through good nutrition and an emphasis on the importance of physical activity. Even at Mickey D’s the message is spread!

Another important part of a healthy French lifestyle is enjoying your meal. If at all possible in agreeable company and pleasant surroundings, ideally at home with family, which in our modern times is often no longer feasible. Yet one has to make the best possible effort, especially at lunch time, the main meal of the day in France. Businesses beyond a certain size must provide their employees with a comfortable lunch room or cafeteria. Should they be unable to offer a pleasant dining environment, they are required by law to make lunch vouchers available, which the employees use in participating restaurants to offset their  lunch expenses. Most businesses, not just small retailers, even large chain stores like a ‘Home Depot’ building supply outfit, the Postoffice, and most government offices, are closed from noon to 2 PM. We were about finished with our early meal, when the lunch crowd began to descend on McDonald’s. To offer a pleasant welcome to all guests an employee stationed herself near the door to greet everyone. Even at Mickey D’s at least a minimum of dining culture is preserved!

McD.04-8710 McD.05-8709

These decoratives ‘dots’ in the wall divider behind me, were actually concave inserts of turned wood. In other areas of the restaurant curved wooden planks were mounted either vertically or horizontally as sight barriers. Quite attractive, I think.

P.S. Fast forward to tonight’s dinner at our favorite neighborhood Italian-wood-fire-pizza place, literally a one-minute walk from our house. The pizzas, very similar to “Alida’s” pizzas in Atenas, are exceptionally good, but there’s also a daily dishes on offer cooked according to market availability. Today’s special was l’Araignée de Cochon. Imagine cuts of fatty pork meat (to keep it tender) marinated in olive oil, garlic, parsley, soja sauce, honey, ginger, salt & pepper, orange peel and so on, then grilled, served with a medley of root veggies: Jerusalem artichoke (Helianthus tuberosus), parsnip (Pastinaca sativa) and sweet potato. Unbelievably delicious!  I guess, tradition wins 😉

À chaqun son goût !!

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