Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Please, Sir... Why Not Make More?

In my constant search for interesting articles to use with my advanced conversation students, I recently happened upon a piece discussing the raging trend of food trucks in places like New York City, and their speedily growing influence on Paris. While I admittedly have never seen an actual food truck here, save the traditional crepe stands sporadically placed in tourist districts, I fully believe that these trucks must exist. There is part of me that misses the fast food fads of the U.S. I don't mean chains like McDonalds, which are frankly more popular in many ways here, to the point where France is the only country allowed to use a green symbol instead of red due to their incredible impact on the market. But when I am on the run at lunch time, I often crave things that are not baguette sandwiches coated in mayonnaise AND butter. Don't get me wrong, they are delicious, but my body has begun to shriek in agony at this daily ritual. The idea of a gourmet food truck with delectable treats ranging from American burgers to Mexican taquitos is quite enticing.

That being said, on Sunday afternoon I was just finishing up a coffee with a French friend of mine whom I met in NYC last year. He had just returned from a trip to Japan, so I was able to meet up with him briefly as he passed through Paris. The bad news is that I was once again hit over the head with that damned proverbial frying pan in terms of the fact that, try as I might (or not try much at all as the case may be) my spoken French is like a bleeding wound that seems to disintegrate my soul every time I even come close to thinking I may have improved. My friend did, however, re-inspire me to try harder... Right before spring break... As I head to English speaking countries for the next week... Sigh...

The good news, however,  is that after I had bid my friend farewell, I was thinking about where to head for lunch before meeting a student in the afternoon, when I received a message from my American friends about going to a street food festival that was conveniently located a mere stone's throw from where I happened to be! Oh tra la, the kismet! I slowly wandered toward our meeting spot and en route even saw a sidewalk sculpture of a serpent as I veered off course on this oh so enchanting Parisian afternoon. The luck, the karma, the symbolic nature of Nessie arriving in Paris just days before I depart for the Scottish lands of legend!

The stage was set for nourishment, for indulgence, for hedonistic pleasures!!!... But nay... As we wandered around this strange little city of food stands, serenaded by awkward keyboard playing in place of the advertised professional DJ, we realized the sad truth... First of all, there were not nearly enough food stands, and though we had arrived several hours before the end of the mini-festival, there was an alarming line growing behind one specific restaurant serving bbq. At first I thought well, duh, bbq isn't indigenous to Paris, so of course it would be the most popular! Until a French women started walking past everyone saying that basically by the time we reached the front of the line, there wouldn't be any food left. (Flashbacks to the evil day of cronuts... pain and despair... Reference Poem #6) Almost simultaneously, one of my friends returned from scouting the lay of the land and informed us that very few of the other stands had anything left either. As someone who has been to "Smorgasburg", a food truck extravaganza in hipster Williamsburg, Brooklyn, I felt the swift slap of deprivation hit my face. 

Here's the problem: French people do not think about quantity unless they are located in the crazy tourist districts where frozen food abounds. In general, if their reservation list is full they turn people away, meals take hours, and a single espresso can guarantee you a table for decades. Parisians are not set up for a rapidly evolving door of afternoon feasters who want to taste and munch and eat more food than is humanly possible. And so they charge too much, shun those who dare to question, and the Americans are left wanting more... Thus the cosmic equilibrium continues...

No comments:

Post a Comment