Sunday, July 14, 2013

Le Bibliothécaire Aérodynamique du Ska se rend en France

I'm back! I could have blogged while traveling but I wanted a real vacation. And a real vacation it was! A much needed trip visiting friends in Le Bourg D'Oisans and seeing the environs of Les Hautes Alpes. Even for a jaded, urban Ska Librarian like me, I could not help but in awe of the area.

Hard to resist getting physical when you see views like this along your running route:

And despite being forced to wear a speedo (silly French rules), it's worth to get to swim at this venue:

But even with fresh air and determination, I will not deny that vacation does mean a drop in vigilance, but it's still not like the old days.

I ate a lot of meals at my friend's house with occasional goodies from the local boulangerie and boucherie, but I didn't just keep grazing. There was too much to see and do. Like scarily hang out the side of a porsche while zooming through the Alps and trying to hike around waterfalls:

So did I partake in a slice of pate en croute with lunch? Of course. Did I scarf down brioche suisse and tarte aux pistaches several times a day? No, thank you.

Andouillette in Briançon? Try and stop me!

And my Isère-based hosts challenged me one night to make a "proper" sauce béarnaise:

Who's your béarnaise papa?

But again, it was all in moderation, combined with some great runs and hikes. 

So, a bit of good times, some travel bloat and 9 days that were bit more skewed towards the less lean meals and more wine meant there was a few pounds of weight gain, but this was a vacation and now it's back to Streamlined Ska Librarian lifestyle. 

I even found some Streamlined interesting things during some visits to fancy shops. Check this out:

Yup, that's flavored agave syrup, being sold in a fancy shop. Not presented as a glycemic index positive diet product, but as something shelved next to the "artisinal" pepper mixes. And then in the bookstore just next door:

Yes, even the French are worried about it.
Now, a lot of my friends seem to have visions that eating in France is always so glorious and it's nothing but dedicated old grannies sitting behind cauldrons and pretentious chefs creating geléed parsnips that are delicious but not fat inducing. But like any dream, it's not entirely based in fact. Not unlike my time in Japan, where I kept hearing from expats that "It's so healthy here, just rice, fish, tofu and vegetables" and all the while the locals scarfed down high sodium ramen mixes from 7-11, helping push that country to one of the world's highest rates of hypertension. I find that image similar in France. These are not all rail thin models, picking at hand crafted bouillabaisse. They eat prepackaged ice cream and cookies and the like.

Let's take a real look. What did I find at the local supermarket?


And despite the beliefs we may have over here, MacDonald's and Starbucks are both pretty well ensconced all over France. It's not like these people are infallible, food-wise, despite the calls for the Mediterranean diet on this side of the Atlantic (as I've talked about in this post).

But now, there's been a call to action in France, as mentioned in this article, among others. It seems a lot of places, even the non-fast food joints, are using pre-fab food in their cooking, and France has had enough:

"The new restrictions would force all French eating establishments to abandon frozen, pre-cooked and plastic-sealed ‘sous-vide’ ingredients, on pain of losing the right to officially call their establishment a ‘restaurant.’"

Having been involved in research of the food-industry, it's pretty safe to say that many restaurants use pre-prepared or "in a bag" food for large quantities of their material. So this is a big thing if 1) France is admitting it's a problem and 2) they want to stop it on some level. 

In the many years I've traveled to France, I've eaten some fabulous meals, but there are many times it's been just ok. Not that a chain restaurant there won't be miles above Golden Corral of TGI Fridays, but I'm sure I've eaten several items that weren't always "fresh." (I can imagine that andouillette and the frites shown above were probably made elsewhere. But they were pretty darn good!)

This plan for all fresh food may not make the lower end, smaller bistros and the like more cost-effective, but I imagine this idea would work better in a rather controlled area like France, which supports a lot more initiatives like this and where being a waiter may be a full time long term job, as opposed to a summer gig.

If there's any justification to this plan, just think of all the foodie bloggers who've been talking about frozen food in their travels!

I find that funny. 

My takeaway is that, wherever you go, you can make solid food choices, but may not get what you were expecting. Not that it's not healthy, it's just been ready to go for quite some time. 

Being streamlined takes preparation. I guess it works for bistros as well.

“French ‘Restaurants’ Set for Ready Meals Ban - The Local.” Accessed July 11, 2013.

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