Paris Organics

When I take Americans to a market here in Paris, a common query is, “What do they think about organics in France?” The two markets I shop at regularly, the Richard Lenoir Market and the Marche d’Aligre, don’t have much in the way of anything organic. There is one vendor who regularly shows up at the Richard Lenoir market with a gorgeous array of fruits and vegetables. The downside is the price is much, much higher than conventional produce, often 3 to 6 times higher. Still, I always stop to take a look and admire what she has and since it can be difficult to find unusual vegetables here, such as parsnips and multicolored Swiss chard, I succumb.

Asperge Sauvage: Delicate Wild Asparagus

I’ve spoken to a several French chefs about organics, inquiring why it’s not really a movement here in France like it is in the United States. Surprisingly, every response is similar; “Why are Americans so obsessed with organics? We use very little pesticides on the produce in France.”

France is a major user of pesticides. Is the movement really a major cultural change in the United States, more so than in France? Are Americans finally taking a much closer look at the foods we eat? I would definitely say “yes”, as evidenced by the popularity of natural-foods megastores, artisan chocolates, and the like, but that doesn’t seem to be happening here. Maybe it’s because the French never strayed that much from their agricultural roots to begin with. Farmhouse cheeses and good breads are easily available, even in supermarkets, and wine is chosen based on the region, not by the grape variety (which is changing, in a rare nod to globalization.)

Most French chefs seem primarily interested in the terroir, that vaguely-translatable term that means that the product is a sum of the elements from where it’s grown; the soil, the climate, the cultivation techniques…the ‘territory’ of origin, gives food its certain “Je ne sais quoi.” That’s why the sweet corn in New England will always taste different than the corn in California, even if it’s the same variety. Or brownies in America taste better than the ones in Paris (I think I’m the first person to ascribe terroir to brownies). And why baguettes taste much more authentic in Paris than the ones in America.

Going bio in Paris? No need to deprive yourself of les chips.

I seem to be one of those people who goes organic when it’s truly better tasting, when buying or eating American beef, or isn’t priced stratospherically high. The organic carrot juice at Trader Joe’s that’s 50 cents more seems to be a price difference I can live with. But there’s no Trader Joe’s in Paris, yet, and I don’t for see their arrival anytime soon. And I try to live responsibly; I bring my own basket to the market, I schlep my lettuce-washing water to my plants after washing salad greens, I don’t drive in Paris (which is why I’m still alive), and I’ve never, ever thrown away a twist-tie in my life, and guard my stash of them with my life (…thanks for that one too, mom.)

But then I worry if washing my plastic bags for re-use wastes more energy in water usage than simply tossing them out. Is sporting a wicker basket at the market mark me as a tourist? And my first (and last) experience buying ‘green’ toilet paper made from recycled wood pulp was, um, rather unpleasant.

I spent over 13 years working at Chez Panisse, where Alice Waters insisted that we forage as much of our ingredients as possible from organic producers and sources. At first we had some difficulties, but soon we found we were able to get most of what we wanted organically and developed wonderful relationships with farmers. Since we paid more, they’d spend more time growing what we wanted. Alice didn’t mind that food costs were very high, spending $5 per pound for organic butter, and the like. She encouraged us to be leaders in a global movement, which was possible due to the high profile and popularity of Chez Panisse. Being in sympathetic Berkeley perhaps didn’t hurt either.

Organic Breads

But it seems now it’s fashionable to complain about organics and there’s lot of articles I’ve read lately that attack organics. I wonder about the backlash that’s happening. Yes, the organic movement is criticized for being hi-jacked by big business. But don’t we want Frosted Flakes to go organic? (Not that I eat Frosted Flakes…) And don’t we want Coke without all the preservatives? (Not that I drink Coke either…) But isn’t it better than all those chemical being dumped into our eco-system?

The same people who joke about the high price of shopping at “Whole Paycheck” don’t seem to remember that a little over a decade ago, finding anything like radicchio, goat cheese, espresso, blood oranges, and hearth-baked breads was practically unheard of. And they also don’t seem to mind spending a fortune on cars, gym memberships, and watery soy lattes. Just a few years back, if you wanted anything organic or ‘natural’, you had to brave getting trampled by Birkenstocks or getting strangled by someone’s dashiki drawstrings while sorting through crinkly apples rotting in wooden bins at the health food store.

There’s been lots of press about the downside of organic. We’ve all been saying how we wanted better foods available to all (Safeway has introduced an organic line) and how it’s out-of-reach for the less well-off (Wal-Mart is soon to introduce several lines of organic goods.) But the scare to small farmers and growers is that the large corporations will flex their muscles to force down prices, and the little guys will go out of business, who can’t compete with corporate organic agri-giants. That’s why I’m a ‘local trumps organic’ kinda mec. I feel it’s far more important to keep local businesses and neighbors afloat. Still, I can’t help but give credit to large corporations for responding to the public and expanding the availability of organics to the masses.

Green & Black’s organic chocolate…coming soon to a superstore near you.

We have two thriving organic markets here in Paris and even though they’re across town, I’m trying to visit them more often. One is the Batignolles market in the 17th, and the other at Boulevard Raspail, which draws a bit more of an upscale crowd. On Saturday, we braved the intense rainstorm, which alternated with moments of brilliant sunshine, and sloshed around the Marché Biologique Batignolles.

Organic vegetables at the Batignolles market.

There were beautiful vegetables everywhere, that the crowd seemed to be buying. Yes, prices were higher, but to me, they seemed proportional to the exceptional quality of most of what was available: rounds of organic camemberts and wheels of brie de meaux, mounds of golden-yellow butter riddled with flecks of sea salt from Brittany, and meaty pâtes and pintades, of Guinea fowl, raised in the open-air of the French countryside.

One of the most curious things we saw people frying up the globally loathed veggie-and-lentil patties, which resembled what people used to think of as ‘health food’ back in the days of yore….although I’m probably guilty of frying up perhaps a few of them a while back as well. Still, to do it publicly should be a crime. Especially here in Paris.

There’s a certain amount of potions, creams, and tinctures for what ails you, as well as lots of beautiful, dense, grainy breads. One vendor had wood-oven baked breads made with everything from kamut to buckwheat, quinoa to cornmeal, and dark Russian rye that was as black as charcoal, which I would have bought except I had three loaves of bread sitting in my kitchen. My ‘French Bread Crisis‘, as I call it…how can I possibly eat all the bread I seem to collect?

So there is a thriving organic movement here, although I got the feeling that most people were like me; shopping there because of the exceptional quality of the food. Now that the weather’s nicer (mostly), I’m going to venture across town more often to the Batignolles market on Saturdays, to support the local producteurs.

Perhaps if I support organic cheesemakers and boulangers, I won’t feel quite so guilty buying non-recycled toilet paper. Now if I could only find some that was locally-produced, then I’d be in business.

Marché Biologique Batignolles
Every Saturday morning
Métro: Rome

Marché Biologique Raspail
Every Sunday morning
Métro: Sèvres-Babylon

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  • Alisa
    May 22, 2006 6:31am

    (I love Asperge Sauvage, almost like a different vegetable than regular asparagus, but the cost is daunting.)

  • May 22, 2006 6:45am

    David, fantastic post of course. But what I wanted to say was that I’m happy to hear about your twist-tie issues. My father taught me to save mine too and it has only been in the last couple of years that I’ve learned to fight the urge to keep them. Perhaps its good for the environment– but when you realize you have a stack of new/unused twist ties sitting in your drawer that are 5 years old, because you just keep using the old ones–well, you suddenly become very aware that its a sickness.

  • May 22, 2006 8:02am

    What a great posting (as always). It’s so interesting to see the discussion of organics and how it’s progressed over the years, and your insight is always so right on.

    By the way, how did the wild asparagus taste? Man they look delicious!

  • May 22, 2006 9:48am

    Great post, David. I’m glad to know how you feel about organics, it made me think about the issue again. All the vegetables look really gorgeous, could you tell us how you cooked the beautiful wild asparagus? :)

  • Jeff
    May 22, 2006 10:00am

    It must be kismet that you mention wanting Coke without preservatives. 7up has recently announced that their sodas are now preservative free. Though I’m sure they still contain lots of corn syrup and I’d rather have them benzene-free. Did you also catch the story recently of the Sunny Delite concentrate that erupted from storage tanks at the factory in England? It flowed to a nearby creek where it promptly killed all the fish in it. Ghastly!

  • a dear, dear friend
    May 22, 2006 11:16am

    I imagine that you know that Green & Black sold out to Cadbury some time ago? That may mean a distinct change in the “organic” character of Green & Black products. Incidentally, and if I may: It is not “Je ne sais PAS” but “Je ne sais QUOI” – forgive the pedantry but American corruption of European and English (UK)expressions drives me nuts!

  • May 22, 2006 11:30am

    Alisa: Don’t they sell it at your Monoprix?

    Michèle: Let’s have a twist-tie twist-off!

    Matt & Keiko: The asparagus is delicious simply steamed and buttered..with French butter, of course.

    Jeff: Ewe. That Sunny D stuff is truly scary, and they’re trying to promote it here too. Why anyone would drink an orange-juice based drink instead of real orange juice is beyond me.

    DDF: Yes, I know Cadbury bought Green & Black but don’t know of any changes to the chocolate that they’re making. Damn %#^$%ing small screen of Movable Type-it makes bilingual blogging a bitch to read, and write. Will stay away from UK languages, I get into enough trouble butchering French (although if you want to see a corruption of English, watch the Eurovision contest…oh my God, what they’ve done to our language…)

  • May 22, 2006 11:34am

    a lovely, thoughtful entry, thanks. i know people who will refrain from buying grapes they love for a mere 10 cents per pound. ($1.79 per pound is acceptable, but $1.99 a pound, no! even tho the end price can’t differ more than 50 cents.) it is as you say – people will spend lots more on their lattes (or, say, tortilla chips and snacks, which are OUTRAGEOUSly priced) compared to that, produce is a bargain at almost any price

  • peggycooks
    May 22, 2006 2:12pm

    Trade you one of my 3 Trader Joe’s for a Picard!

  • May 22, 2006 2:28pm

    Peggy, I see your Trader Joes, raise you a Picard, and call you a Target.

  • SimplySara
    May 22, 2006 3:11pm

    Green & Black’s *sigh* I am vegan and G&B has been one of my chocolates of choice because several of their flavors are suitable for vegans (chocovic is another favorite). I have been purchasing them for a long time from my co-op, and was at first happy to see them at Target. They are slightly cheaper and though they carry just four flavors, they seem to be able to keep them in stock better. I recently bought a 70% bar at Target and it had an aftertaste like dirt! I’ll keep buying my Maya Gold and Mint flavors at the Co-op and stay true to the Chocovic bars for “plain” chocolate.

    I have mixed feelings about “sell out” foods. On one hand I am happy that they are more available, but on the other hand once they get into chain stores they seem to lose quality.

    But, if I had a third hand, I would say that I doubt G&B will last long at Target. I think I am the only person who buys it.

    I see this happen a lot. When I used to eat cheese (and work at an artisan cheese shop), my favorite cheese was Midnight Moon made by Cypress Grove (makers of Humboldt Fog). The cheese was so lovely… and then one day I saw Cypress Grove products at Costco. We tried getting more Midnight Moon at the shop and it took months and when we finally did, the rind looked different and the creaminess was gone, and instead it was almost oily. The problem persisted for several more wheels (and probably still does) so it wasn’t just a seasonal batch problem. (Since I don’t eat cheese anymore I can’t give a current review. I don’t want to give them a completely bad review, because the Midnight Moon is actually made “to their specifications” in Holland and is not actually made at their creamery)

    Same thing with an artisnal bread company in my city. They have such a high demand that they have a factory for producing the products that are served in restaurants and sold to other stores. Their storefront restaurant’s bread is still made completely by hand and is complete heaven, but anything from the factory tastes like a big pile of flour (but the crust is always perfect)

    I think I got on a tangent… oops!

  • May 22, 2006 5:07pm

    You went to the market in my neighborhood and didn’t call me? Call me egotistical (self-centered woman!) but I’m trying not to be offended…well, no, not really. But really. I’m there nearly every week lately (Eat Local Challenge you see) and it would be nice to meet up and compare baskets!

    Great post, by the way!

  • May 22, 2006 5:28pm

    This makes we want to live in Paris… I’m sure most of everything is pesticide free, that’s why everything tastes so much better there! I LOVE Chez Panisse, that is so neat that you worked there.

  • J. Bo
    May 22, 2006 5:50pm

    Brownies “Terroir Americain”– I love it! THERE’S a marketing phrase just waiting to be exploited…

  • May 22, 2006 6:44pm

    I have similar bread criseses. I find all sorts of different loaves at the Farmers Market and bakeries that I must buy and then eat, but no chance of consuming it all. Oh well, too much bread is better than not enough bread.

  • May 22, 2006 9:09pm

    Great post, David.

    What do you say – shall we lobby Trader Joe’s to open some stores in Europe? Now that they’ve made it to New York it’s not SUCH a jump…is it?

  • May 23, 2006 9:30am

    I discovered a daily Bio marché right next to the St. Germaine swimming pool on rue Lobineau & rue Mabillon..nice things for after your swim

  • May 23, 2006 11:07am

    What a wonderful shopping excursion. Wish I was there.

    Now I have to hunt for wild asparagus and hope I can find some here in Toronto.

  • Rory
    May 23, 2006 3:09pm

    Good post David. One point I think you are missing in the so called “organic backlash” is the concern that as Safeway and Wal-Mart start their own “Organic” brands, the Organic standards will decline, possibly to the point that it becomes meaningless. i.e. Safeway Organic Carrots are a far cry from the Carrots served at Chez Panisse. What people really want is for the Chez Panisse Carrots to be available to the masses, not just crappy carrots with a label that says “Organic.” In fact, at Safeway, the Organic carrots may even taste worse than the non-organic ones, which makes people really balk at the price markup. This, I think, is where the real backlash stems – paying more and getting less. We often forget that pesticides and preservatives were invented and put into use for a reason – namely that they often make it so food still tastes good after being shipped halfway around the world, subjected to various temperatures and climates, poorly handled, and left on a shelf for a week or more. If you treat an heirloom tomato like that you will end up with a puddle of rotten tomato juice. In order for a Safeway or Wal-mart to serve “real” organic, heirloom produce (i.e. the Chez Panisse Carrot), they are going to have to make fundamental changes to their business and stock local, seasonal, fresh produce. Call me jaded, but I just don’t see that happening. They are going to stock factory farmed, mass produced vegetables that just barely fit the Organic standards. If that becomes too troublesome they will use their clout (and $$$) to get the organic standards further reduced.

  • May 23, 2006 3:35pm

    Thanks Rory: All very good points, which is why, in general, I’m a “local-trumps-organic” kinda guy. In a recent article in The New Yorker (the 5-15-06 issue) called ‘Paradise Sold: What Are You Buying When You Buy Organic?”, author Steven Shapin states that, “According to a…recent estimate, if synthetic fertilizers suddenly disappeared from the face of the earth, about two billion people would perish.”
    Unfortunately, he doesn’t state the source who made that “recent estimate”…obviously he doesn’t have the sharp readers that I have!
    ; )

    Perhaps the article is on their web site, and it’s worth reading, since it discusses various sides of the issue. There was also an article on recently critiquing Whole Foods Market worth reading too.

    Although I love my fromager, my boulanger, and the crazy chicken lady at my local market, I would kill for a pass at a Whole Foods Salad bar (tofu! sprouts! Caesar dressing!)

    But I would not swipe a meatball…just in case anyone thinks that I would.

  • Rory
    May 23, 2006 4:26pm

    I agree with the local trumps organic, and I think I saw somewhere else on your site a statement I wholeheartedly agree with: “Taste trumps all.” I’ll seek out those articles, thanks.

    Heh, that’s funny about Whole Foods. I mainly go there because they have the best cheese, bread and meat around here (Sunnyvale, CA). I’d kill for a good fromager, boulanger, and chicken lady (and I’d trade all of those for a good butcher). I guess the grass is always greener…

  • May 23, 2006 6:13pm

    Thanks for the tip about wild asparagus on Keiko’s blog, David! The guy at Bastille market said that I should boil them for 5 minutes, which sounded a bit on the long side..
    I was trying to admire the Eiffel tower during that nasty rainstorm on Saturday morning – it almost felt like I never left Edinburgh:)

  • Steve
    May 23, 2006 8:19pm

    Great post–especially interesting to me was the French view that there is very little pesticide use in France. I have no personal knowledge of whether that is true or not, but in the world of wine (i.e., grape growing) there seems to be a burgeoning movement towards organic farming. Judging from the comments of the vignerons, there is a heavy reliance on pesticides and synthetic fertilizers in every grape growing region. I’ve read more than one comment from someone who converted to organics (or biodynamics) after returning to his vineyard a day after spraying only to find hundreds of dead birds. If the people who grow the food are telling you that they use few synthetics I have no basis for doubting them, but I don’t think there’s any reason to believe that industrial agriculture in France is any different than industrial agriculture in the U.S.

  • May 23, 2006 8:54pm

    On a totally unrelated note, I just made your east-west gingerbread out of Classic Home desserts for this sugar high friday. Do you mind if I repost the recipe?

  • May 24, 2006 11:42am

    I’ll try to go get better data when I’ve got a little more time, but pesticide use is available via the FAOSTAT pesticides database (via the FAOSTAT databases page). A preliminary look shows that the U.S. data only exists up through ’95.

  • May 24, 2006 11:53am

    Please forgive me, but what do wild asparagus taste like? I’ve never seen them before.

  • May 24, 2006 12:02pm

    Well, as I described it to someone, the wild asparagus had a mild asparagus flavor, not asparagus-y, like big, fat asparagus spears (I can live with or without regular asparagus.)
    The whole bunch cost 2.5€ ($2.75) and would feed two people. I steamed it for about 5 minutes, maybe a bit more since here in France, we don’t like our vegetables crisp. I simply topped it with the coarse-grained salted Breton butter, which was not local or organic, but very good!

  • May 24, 2006 12:44pm

    Huh. Making sense of that pesticides statistics source I posted is tougher than I thought, I’ve tried a couple of different years and it looks like different data sets are available for those years, or things get put in one category for France and another category for the U.S. for a given year (ie: 1995).

    1990 has a list which seems to sort of match, and that gives this (and, alas, I can’t make your commenting system accept “table” tags, so here’s a close approximation), units are “Mt” which I’d guess is “Metric tonnes”:

    Fungicides & Bactericides Consumption:
    France 41,514
    United States of America 22,680
    Herbicides Consumption
    France 37,429
    United States of America 202,384
    Insecticides Consumption
    France 11,039
    United States of America 89,811
    Mineral Oils Consumption:
    United States of America 74,389
    Other Pesticides nes Consumption:
    France 7,719
    Plant Growth Regulators Consumption:
    United States of America 4,000
    Rodenticides Consumption:
    United States of America 11,340

    The U.S. has about 5 times the population of France, so in places we have direct comparisons the only place we (the U.S.) use more per capita is “Insecticides”, and France far outstrips us in “Fungicides & Bacteriacides”. What I don’t know is what some of those other categories mean, I think it’d take someone familiar with the agricultural industry to give a square answer, and someone familiar with potential ecological effects to give a functional answer.

    But based on the numbers I’m finding so far, I’m calling “hoohey” on that initial “the French don’t need organic ’cause they use less” claim. Also note that I’m not an “everything must be organic” consumer, so I’m not sure that that’s good or bad, but I’d also add that often organic produce (and riper produce) looks worse in the market, because fresh fruit and veggies don’t ship nearly as well as unripe ones, and growing without pesticides means a lot more blemishes and disfigurements.

  • Gwyneth L
    May 24, 2006 12:56pm

    Recycled toilet tissue that doesn’t … abrade quite so much or cost the earth: – It’s a UK based company so not particularly useful in France or America. Just as a sidenote incase any other Brits are reading this.

  • May 25, 2006 12:24am

    OK, so this all makes me want to rant a little but that article in the New Yorker – or rather the attitude that it illuminted – made me so mad. Yes, the mass production of organic foods dilutes the original intention of the organic movement, but how is a reduction of pesticides in the world’s groundwater and oceans not a good thing? I think the best thing that can come out of the discussion surrounding some people’s disillusionment with organics is that people will start to differentiate between the issue of organic (keeping polution down) and the issue of sustainable/local farming techniques (which is good for the community and helps pollution by cutting down on the exhaust from the planes and trucks that transport the food). The only way we can deal with the problems with our current system is to see it clearly.

    It’s a tough balance, and I feel lucky to have the NY Greenmarket to go to because it solves both problems.

  • haapi
    May 25, 2006 4:32pm

    David– don’t kid yourself into believing that nonsense about the French not using pesticides etc. Please humor me as I step up onto my soapbox…In the mid-90s, I did a story for a major French magazine during the very heated GAAT talks, whereby I brought a French farmer to a US farm to spend a few days with his US counterpart and then brought the US farmer back to the French farmer’s spread so that he could see the French farmer’s way of doing things. The US farmer, a very jovial but committed “agro-biz” soldier from Iowa, was absolutely astounded at how much fertilizer and chemicals the French farm used. As he said “they aren’t growing things in soil, they’re growing things in fertilizer.” Another point: next time take a look at all the produce crates at the Richard Lenoir market: virtually all of the fruits and veggies at this market –where I also shop– comes from Morrocco or Spain. Nothing against these two countries (both of which I adore) but if you have ever seen the sophisticated agro-biz set-up in either of these countries you would swear you were in the US. Pickled in pesticides. And last point, as the mother of a child with food-related “issues” I am extraordinarily careful about what I feed her. I read every label. Believe me, even the most anodine food here often has some kind of chemical/preservative/flavor enhancer in it. (It’s usually hidden behind the anonymous EU coding of letters/numbers and you don’t necessarily realize that E-621 is actually MSG.)
    The real problem in my mind is that when you talk about the quality of food in France you might as well be talking about a Mediterranean man’s mother: be very, very, very careful. You are touching on a live nerve there, the very heart, soul and foundation of the French culture. Dis her and you have dissed the entire race. And, of course, sleighted the multi-billion dollar/euro industry (ie food) that is largely responsible for making France the most visited country in the world…there’s a lot of tourist dollars at stake!
    But lest anyone think that I am bad-mouthing the French let me add that I think that the quality curve here is simply undergoing the same process that the US’s did at the beginning of its agro industrialization: An equation of more people/consumers to feed (due to tourism, globalization etc) and not enough time (working mothers) or resources (local, respectfully-grown food) to do it well, so they are just taking the same shortcuts that the US has perfected. However, I do believe that the ingrained respect for food here will prevent the country from falling into the trans-fat/fast-food/high-fructose sweetener (etc, etc) dynamic of the US…although all that stuff is very, very present here as well!
    In short, there is the nostalgic postcard vision of French food and there is reality. And the fact that you yourself have to cross Paris to find decent organic produce is enough proof.

  • May 26, 2006 1:03pm

    I live in the middle of an Italian farm, and all the kitchen gardens surround mine. The same people who decry all American food as “velenoso” use copper sulfate not only on their vines, but also on plants that don’t need it and have no pests affected by it. They are so liberal with it that it gets all over my salad crops, my basil, my Swiss chard, things where I have to eat the damned stuff or throw away what I grow.
    I buy manure, they buy fertilizer. Fertilizer was a miracle for them after the war when they were hungry. I understand that. But manure is free here.
    The big farmer who surrounds us all (big for here) would like to go organic, but he would have to be certified by growing organic for years and inspected for years before he could sell his first organic crop. He says he can’t afford it, because the crop is smaller and he would have to eat the loss until he was certified.
    There must be a way out. There ought to be a “no pesticides or fertilizers used” label until you can sell “certified bio.” It takes a big agribusiness firm to hold out and lose money for years.
    So trying to grow my foods clean is like spitting in the wind. (I do that, too.)
    It’s a fashion, it’s a trend, it’s the latest thing to chomp down organic chocolate bars behind your SUV wheel. There are lots of people who could profit from just putting down that designer sports drink, looking at quality instead of labels and stepping away from Starbucks, IMO. A whole load of people who are on that red wagon are unfamiliar with real food, real farming and the issues of feeding populations. I just wish they’d stand down from the superconsumption and think about what might actually task the world’s resources less.
    I do not eat local. I am not willing to live without coffee, chocolate, bananas, pineapples, coconut and vanilla. I am not willing to allow the peoples of the regions which are adapted to those crops to go back to eating grubs or starve. Anyone who has ever seen a banana plantation understands that you can’t grow wheat there. They also know that bananas must be gassed or the loaders and unloaders get bitten by huge, horrible spiders (ugh!)
    I do eat in season. I am not entirely depraved yet.

  • Valerie
    May 27, 2006 11:14pm

    I’m a little late commenting on this post.

    15 years ago, when I arrived here in FR, the big boom towards ‘terroir’ had not yet really taken off. It was/is a marketing tool. If the FR producers can get one of those quality ‘labels’ onto their products, it helps avoid copycat manufacturing elsewhere in Europe that could end up competing for the market. Mad cow really helped boost the trend toward ‘terroir’ and ‘bio’ – especially in meats.

    For the FR people I know, ‘bio’ is not a viable on an everyday basis because it’s expensive and the taste is mediocre. Yes, people buy themselves nice cars, etc, but food is ephemeral! Who wants to buy mediocre carrots for twice the price of normal decent-tasting ones?! Not me! I’ve tried all the fruits and meats at the local co-op and, frankly, the price wasn’t worth it once the novelty wore off. Of course, everyone dreams of tasty tomatoes instead of the red balls they sell at the supermarket but organic tomatoes aren’t better in my experience.

    Even the FR make mistakes with their industrial food output, btw. Sometimes, the FR don’t complain. For example, how often can you buy a really good President camembert? You have to wait for it to mature and then it stinks to high heaven of ammonia…yuck.)

    Sometimes the complaints come but only after a mini-boom. A few years ago, the rage became everything zero percent fat, lowfat… It pleased the women but the rest of the population wasn’t all that willing to eat bad-tasting yoghurt, so the big brands phased back the zero percent stuff and started offering dairy products in flavours other than vanilla, coffee and chocolate instead.

  • May 28, 2006 12:39pm

    Great post…loved the photos! A hug from Panama :)