"The evolving Francophile..."

My husband Jack has always wanted to live in Paris and learn French. I thought it would be good for him to achieve his life time dream. Hence, we moved to Paris in 2008. My first year was difficult. I started "missives" to relieve some stress and chronicle my life so friends back in the US could read what I am experiencing. I currently write about my food and travel experiences, which is my passion.

It is definitely a challenge to live here, but each year it gets easier, and quite enjoyable, in large part because I value friendships over locale. I have a love/hate relationship with Paris as do most Parisians, mais La vie est belle (but life is good)!

Monday, October 8, 2018

Fait Maison -- what does this mean?


A couple of years ago, there was an exposé revealing a huge scandal wherein several restaurants were caught using boxed or pre-packaged food and serving it as if they made it on premise. Some were brazen enough to leave the boxes of prepackaged food from such grocery stores as, Carrefour, Monoprix and Picard in large bins behind their restaurant. I've seen many restaurants wherein all they had was a microwave, "salamander" oven and sometimes a stove-top, with one person manning the restaurant. The food is just that, heated pre-packaged food. And, believe it or not it is more common than you think, especially in tourist areas.

There is a "Costco" like store for chefs called "Metro" in France. You cannot go in unless you have a wholesale license or I believe if you pay for membership.

I've been there a few times and have been amazed of the packaging and beautiful presentation of their food. You will see several Chef's walking around with chef coats. Oftentimes, I'll just walk around and look to see where they "chef" at, and what they have in their shopping carts. If it's pre-made, I'll avoid that restaurant.

Now to be fair, a lot of the food in there is legit. They have fabulous products, and wonderful selections of cheeses, produce etc. And, they have a refrigerator/freezer section where you have to wear a special jacket so you won't freeze, featuring fabulous fresh butchered food, ice creams, fresh flowers etc. But they also have pre-prepared packaged food, such as pre-made couscous. Those are the one's I'm referring to where some chefs will cheat or take short-cuts. But as an aside, I don't mind pre-made "confit de canard" since the cooking process is so long. It's what the chef does afterwards to make it taste good.

Hence, this brings us to what the French government has implemented. French cuisine is something that is truly prized in France and the world. So, to protect this reputation and to combat false advertising, the government created a certification program which they've verified that the food is made by the restaurant. Hence the house insignia featured above. If you see this on the window or on the menu, then you will know that the food is made on the premises.

"All restaurants must now put the following key phrase on their menus: "Les plats 'fait maison' sont élaborés sur place à partir de produits bruts," ("'Homemade dishes' are made on site from raw produce.") Restaurants that make everything from scratch must then display the words fait maison or the logo somewhere visible, and those that have a mix must put it next to each cooked-from-scratch dish. Those that buy everything in, and so have no fait maison dishes, still have to put the key phrase on menus to "remind their customers of the rule". ~~ Guardian

The French are very protective of their French cuisine, and rightfully so. So, I agree it's important to protect their brand. After-all it's one of the top reasons many come to France, for the food and wine.

Bottomline, taste is in the eyes of the beholder. And, sometimes food is a catalyst to bring people together. Either way this is more providing information rather than making judgement. So, with that said, bon appétit.

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