Think France Has Great Food? Think Again
Mark Bittman says nation's famous cooking has gone downhill
By John Johnson, Newser Staff
Posted Jul 23, 2014 1:23 PM CDT
Quiche, with salmon.   (Shutterstock)

(Newser) – Quick, name a country renowned for its cuisine. If France comes to mind, Mark Bittman has a revelation for you: That might have been true decades ago, but "today, when I write about Parisian restaurants I have to eat in three to recommend one, and that’s with expert guidance," he writes in the New York Times. Worse, it's not just high-end joints suffering. Affordable small-time operations that once served up terrific cooking using local food used to be a "national treasure," but they've largely gone by the wayside, too.

"The people of France appear to have lost faith and even interest," writes Bittman. "They spend most of their restaurant dollars at chains, and they no longer trust that restaurants make a majority of their dishes themselves." The government is trying to fix things with a new "made-in-house" logo that restaurants can affix to menus, but it's loaded with loopholes. "Farm-raised, antibiotic-laced, slave-labor-produced and frozen-and-thawed shrimp from Thailand can be legitimately logo-ized, as long as they’re cooked in-house," writes Bittman. Ditto for frozen veggies imported from wherever. If you want great, locally produced meals in France, be prepared to hunt long and to spend big. "In fact, if that’s the kind of food you want to rely on, you’d better get rich or start cooking at home," writes Bittman. Click for his full column.

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Showing 3 of 35 comments
Ezekiel 25:17
Jul 26, 2014 4:29 PM CDT
You laugh at the scene from European Vacation but skits usually develop from some kind of truth to be funny. So the fact that some French restaurant food is from places like Sodexho is not so far fetched. One thing they specialize in is restaurant prepped entrées made to look locally made. One is a steak that is 90 percent cooked to preferred level and then flash frozen. So you thaw and unwrap it, toss it in microwave for a couple minutes, cover it in hot mushrooms, a quick prepped sauce, and serve it complete with the grill turn marks done at the factory. Quite frankly, the steak is really good so it works. Remember those school made hamburgers? The unionized school "cook" cuts open a box, removes a tube of 90 percent cooked patties, dumps them in the steam table, waits an hour and serves. Those patties have black food color stripes mimicking grill marks. One of the best commercial chicken fried steaks was from the now closed Harkers. But it really isn't that hard to make yourself.
Chris Farley
Jul 24, 2014 7:43 AM CDT
So its not that french food is bad, its the corporate chains taking out the small shops. So its just like the rest of the world in that regard. French food is very good, but not the same as what we are used to. Lots of Eggs, cheese and frog legs.
FrankFurter
Jul 24, 2014 1:56 AM CDT
This story doesn't make sense. French people go to fast food restaurants because they don't believe real restaurants use real food.