The French have laws to protect the origin of wine grapes (e.g. only those grown in Bordeaux can be used in Bordeaux wine), cheeses (e.g. only cows from the town of Roquefort can be used in this coveted cheese), along with a host of other food products including olives, honey, and even chickens. The French senate has now voted in another law having to do with origin, however, this one will force restaurants to distinguish between food cooked on the premises versus made elsewhere.
The impetus for this legislation is to preserve France’s gastronomic heritage and reverse an alarming trend for chefs to take short cuts in the name of Euro’s. Data suggests that >30% of France’s 100,000 restaurants use industrially prepared food for some of the dishes on their menus. The legislation is also a wake-up call to diners that all is not what it appears.
The French have a marche (market) mentality…the blue plate special (menu du jour), available in most every restaurant, represents what is fresh in the market that day. Expectations are that the menu is in tune with the season or that of the “day’s catch.” Diners would be horrified to know that there’s a good possibility that one of their dishes was possibly frozen and purchased several days (or weeks) before from an industrial supplier hundreds of kilometers away. One such “ready-made” company, for example, offers more than 3,400 dishes.
The new law will force French restaurants to identify on their menu which dishes are made on premises. Fait maison (made in house) will identify what is made at the restaurant. Without this designation, diners will know it was brought in from elsewhere.
The new legislation passed with a close vote. Economics were the biggest culprit. Restaurant owners vow that dining prices will escalate due to their increasing labor costs of making dishes fait maison. But, others maintain that the new law will save the bistro and encourage demand for freshly prepared food. All of this is occurring, however, while fast food consumption is growing and the cost of living in Frances continues to increase.
Viva la France!