Thursday, February 26, 2009

France: World capital of (frozen) food

Hello peeps.

Some of you may have heard this one before. If you have, please bear with me. I think it bears repeating.

You know how the French have this amazing reputation for being the world's greatest gastronomes? You know the whole Michelin star thing is a French administered system? And you know how haughty the French can be about how superior is their cuisine compared to that of any other nation?

Well allow me to let you in on a little secret. They may talk a lot about the countless hours they spend every night, slaving over the stove to produce a meal sensation, but the truth is the entire nation is addicted to frozen food.

Okay, perhaps I exaggerate a little (who, moi? exaggerate? never!) -- maybe not the ENTIRE nation, but a good many of these food-obsessed Frenchies regularly eschew the fresh food markets and skulk into the frozen food emporium, Picard.

Picard is the friend of all single people. It's boil-in-the-bag, TV dinner heaven. Now, I know that in most other Western countries, TV dinners are about as apetitising as a bowl of gruel. But Picard has somehow come up with a winning formula to create GOURMET TV DINNERS.

I kid you not. Many's the time I have had guests coming for dinner and I've popped down to Picard and purchased three courses of ice-encased nosh, stuck it in the microwave or the oven and sat back and let the post-dinner compliments roll in.

In fact, when the Showgirl and I were courting (why don't people court any more? It's such a dignified practice -- everyone's so busy trying to bed one another, no one has time to court anymore --- but I digress ..) .. where was I?" Oh yeah - when the Showgirl and I were courting, I would invite her over to my place and present a gourmet meal. She used to think I was a god in the kitchen until she discovered my little frozen secret. At first, she was unconvinced about the whole "do your weekly shopping in a store full of freezers" concept. But now she's a convert. Not least because when you have an 11-month old, every second not spent looking after your child or otherwise performing household tasks such as cooking, is time you could be spending in bed. Asleep, people, asleep.

So - Picard. There it is. The great, dark, shameful secret lurking at the back of every Parisian's freezer.


martha said...

I've always been convinced that it was the French - not the Americans who invented Fast food. On my first trip to Paris (back in the dark ages) I was astonished at all the ready prepared dishes so beautifully displayed for the French housewife to collect on her way home to serve hubby his required 3 course lunch. So Picard is just an elaboration of the original concept.

valentine said...

Frozen food can be brilliant. Maybe not as much as fresh, but it is the next best alternative. 90% as good in 10% of the time. Oh yeah, and frozen has the added virtue of waiting patiently in the freezer until you need it.

Here is what frozen food isn't: Twinkies, loaves of bread with 47 ingredients that remain preternaturally soft for two weeks, cans of scary Dinty Moore stew, powdered sauce packets, anything with giant lists of ingredients to "stabilize" for the cupboard shelf, Manwich, or anything sitting on any of the interior aisles of an American supermarket.

(Who among us hasn't made a huge pot of stock, or soup, or tomato sauce and frozen the bulk of it in individual-use size packets? I'm pretty sure frozen is the only way to have nice meals on personal Waterloo day for dinner. So it is no surprise that the French have whole stores devoted to this.)

I'm not sure I agree that it would necessarily be surprising that the French have embraced frozen. Their passionate about food, not Luddites.