Friday, June 02, 2006

Freedom!

I quit my job yesterday. I’d been mulling it over (and driving many of you crazy about it) for months. Stressing about the best time to do it. Wondering if I’d ever find another job in France (one where I don’t need to speak fluent French, I’d get paid a U.S. salary with no commute and the flexibility to sleep in depending on what I did the night before). But in the end, it happened quite easily.

Literally five minutes after emailing Fred and telling him that I was going to wait a few more weeks before doing the deed my boss called to discuss a project and at the end of the conversation I blurted it out. He was very nice about it and understood my predicament. Despite the “freedom” of working from home, it is a major hindrance when one is trying to learn a new language and culture without the everyday life of a commute, coworkers, office politics, etc. I'm going to commit myself to learning French, at least basic French, for the next 3 to 6 months and then look for a job teaching English, working at the Embassy, or kidnapping tourists and selling their organs on ebay.fr.

As weird as it sounds, I’m a little excited about trying to live on a budget. I went shopping at my neighborhood open air market, which is just down the street three times weekly. I discovered an amazing thing: fresh produce. For 3,03€, my friend and I purchased a head of lettuce, two large tomatoes, a cucumber, and a bag full of carrots. We made two giant salads topped with a 1,50€ can of albacore tuna and dressed with red wine vinegar and olive oil. There was enough left over to make Fred and I a tomato and cucumber appetizer for dinner. And there is still half a bag of carrots left! This is the life I envisioned when Fred and I decided to move to France: learning French, shopping at open air markets, and making simple dishes with fresh ingredients.

While the markets are generally packed, I’ve noticed that it’s mostly older French people doing the shopping. I have to walk by a McDonald’s to get to the market, which is almost always packed with teens and young adults. During lunch and dinner time, there are cars double-parked out front, lines to the back wall, and a line of people crowding the sidewalk at the “walk-up” window. Yes, walk-up window – something that doesn’t exist in San Francisco (although, maybe in NY as my friend Todd told me that McDonald’s delivers in NY).

The “lure” of a McDonald’s burger is lost on me, especially when it costs 5,50€ (it’s not that I’m above fast food hamburgers, in fact this picture made me squeal). But I am confused considering that next door to this McDonald’s and to the many others throughout Paris is a potpourri of beautiful fresh produce, artisan cheeses, and fish and meat stands (that I'll now have time to explore!).

Could it be that the next generation of Parisians prefer MacDo? It certainly isn't cheaper. Could it be that they don't have the time to cook fresh meals due to their hectic 35 hour work weeks and/or protests? I'm just having fun, but it is nice to turn the tables occasionally. Have a great day! And please look for my upcoming review of the fictional book: French Women Don't Get Fat: The Secret of Eating For Pleasure.

3 comments:

Samantha said...

I was a dietitian in the US, and now live in France, so I spend a lot of my time analyzing the French way of eating. Personally, I think that they are about 20 years behind us when it comes to food (and this is definitely a good thing) - just think about it:

The rise of fast food started in the early 80's, with the advent of happy meals and portions becoming larger. At the time, people didn't eat out that much - it was still expensive and considered to be a treat - same it is now in France. Teens used to go on dates there, just as French ados do now. The average American at that time didn't realize that big macs were loaded with fat, just as now the average French person doesn't know what the difference between saturated fats and unsaturated fats, and has most likely never even heard of transfatty acids (because up until now, they haven't needed to know those things, just as back in the 80's in the US, no one knew about them).

The eating habits of young French people has also changed, partly because French companies have recently picked up on the American advertising techniques of targeting children, knowing how much they influence their parents shopping habits. Remember 20 years ago when things like coke and pop tarts and doritos were all new for us? Well, it's the same here now, with parents wanting to give their children "cool" snacks, without realizing how bad they are. And of course kids want to eat snacks like that, and not fruits and veggies, so the previously healthly French eating habits are being pushed aside for the unhealthy American ones.

The rate of obesity for the under 10 set is on the rise, partly because of this, and partly because they've become a lot more sedentary, watching TV and playing videogames (sound familiar?). I do think the French will have a serious problem with obesity in 10-15 years (once the under 10 age group reaches adulthood) - the French consider obesity to be an American problem, and I'm telling you, it's going to sneak up and surprise them. The adults of today won't be affected - it's the youth of tomorrow who will pay the price.

Anyways, as you can see, I could go on and on about this forever. I love the US, but I find it sad that so many countries are adopting our eating habits - I wish they'd learn from our mistakes!

phil said...

The realistic title is, "French Women aren't obese." I don't notice that they're built differently than other metropolitan Americans. Also, I saw some really, really big butts today, at Chatelet. Really big.

My take on many of the American goods/food/habits, that the French shun, mirrors that of Samantha's; exposure just isn't quite there yet. For ex, they don't like the idea of the Big Box, but have you ever seen the lines at Carrefour who competes directly with Walmart?

Anonymous said...

Congratulations again on your decision; even if it did happen spontaneously, it was the right time! Now the real adventure begins....
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