I'll admit: I giggled when I read Jezebel's headline there. And I'll admit, I rolled my eyes when I went to the original story at npr and saw a picture of what is possibly the least French street in Paris.
But can we talk about what really goes on in the mouths parisiennes? Espresso and cigarettes, that's what. Not exclusively, of course, but the whole "French diet" thing is really grossly distorted. Croissants, for example, are not actually all that calorie-dense - especially not if that's all you're eating for breakfast, until lunch. Yes, Paris (and France) has plenty of cheese, bread, wine, etc. But if you think your average French fashionista is actually going around eating three hearty meals a day composed of Camembert, jambon, and pate de campagne, you're simply kidding yourself. I do adore Jezebel's tongue-in-cheek takedown of that assumption. Sometimes they really get it right.
But that's not really what I'd like to get into about this story.
Here's an interesting snippet from the npr article:
At one public day care center in Paris, 2-and-a-half-year-olds sit around a table for a hot lunch. The tiny diners wear napkins at their necks and are taught the proper use of cutlery. A recent menu featured grilled leg of lamb and cauliflower au gratin, all freshly prepared in the day care's own kitchen.
I can almost guarantee you that that public day care center is probably not located in the 19th or 20th arrondissements, and it's certainly not located in one of the immigrant-populated banlieues, whence came all that rioting news in 2005.
France, as will come as a surprise to no one reading this blog, has a troubled history with immigrants. (Speaking of which: I have, for the record, rethought my opinion on the full veil ban. I suppose I'll have to change my position to Against now. But really only because of the racism that underlies the law. I have no issue with the longstanding ban against headscarves in schools... because any religion-proclaiming wear in school has been long banned. At least that way it's equal opportunity.)
Anyway, as will again come as a surprise to no one reading this blog, I am zero percent shocked to read that the uptick in obesity rates has been mostly seen in low-income communities in France. The French way of life that the world associates with, well, the French way of life, is a very affluent one. Food prices are rising in France, just as they are around the globe. Of course food price hikes and food deserts and sending food away from the farms is going to affect less well-off French people first. It's unsettling when that's treated as a revelation. After all, it's not as though Algeria, Morocco, Tunisia, Vietnam or other countries whose emigrants are heavily France-bound are all crippled under obesity crises. Hardly.
This is an interesting story to see, this newest in a string of laments for the French Way Of Life, in the same week as the riots erupted in London, Liverpool and Birmingham, just a short easyJet hop away.