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Tuesday, 11th December 2018
Pastis to make a revival
Pastis is rather like marmite, you either love it or hate it. Personally I can’t stand it!..and it looks like I am not the only one. The declining popularity of the spirit,which is usually known under the Pastis 51 or Ricard brands - has prompted the family business to consider importing much more of this aniseed liquor.
Cristal Limiñana has been making 100% Marseille pastis in the centre of the Marseille, in the Blancarde district since 1962, and now employs 12 people.
Currently, the company exports just 20% of its bottles, but demand for "Un Marseillais" is growing from Germany and Belgium. Pastis has a very distinctive flavour, and the concept of adding water to alcohol is a strange idea for many people.
Aniseed drinks are not products that usually have any international reputation. It is a very local market, mainly in Spain, Greece and in French-speaking countries.
Cristal Limiñana is hoping to capitalise on the current popularity for strong tastes, such as that in the very popular Aperol Spritz, and emphasise the family-made, independent, Provence-made aspect of the spirit. The ‘Made in France’ label is a strong factor in promoting Pastis which is gaining poularity in Belgium and Germany.
It also wants to increase locals’ knowledge of the spirit, which was originally inspired from an aniseed-tasting drink that was popular in Alicante, in Spain.
Other Marseille manufacturers are also aiming to improve popularity of the spirit, raise its profile, and target the high-end market.
So it looks like Pastis may make a revival!
Tuesday, 4th December 2018
Olive oil labelling questioned
If you are coming to France to buy olive oil, beware, not all are what they claim to be.
Almost half of olive oils sold in France do not conform to regulations, a new report has found, with many containing added vegetable oil, and falsely claiming to be “extra virgin” or “organic”.
The most common issue was incorrect labelling, which gave the impression that the oils were of a higher quality than they really were. Some of the labelled olive oils had rapeseed, vegetable or sunflower oil added to them.
A common problem also appears to be falsely using the “logo for Appellation d’Origine Protégée (AOP)”.
Tuesday, 27th November 2018
Burger v Baguette
For the first time in history, hamburger sales in France have soared higher than the classic baguette jambon-beurre sandwich as French diners surrender to the American fast food favourite.
Burgers were on the menu at 85 per cent of restaurants in France last year with a whopping 1.5 billion units sold, according to a study by Paris-based restaurant consultants Gira Conseil.
More worryingly still for the defenders of French cuisine, just 30 per cent of the burgers were sold in fast food joints, with the majority sold at restaurants with full table service.
Le burger has almost become French, often served with some of the country’s most famous cheeses like Roquefort rather than plastic cheddar.
This is big news for a country that takes great pride in its national culinary culture, and which for years resisted the global burger onslaught. But it can no longer be resisted, last year there was a nine per cent jump in burger sales.
The Golden Arches has adapted to French tastes with the McCamembert and McBaguette burgers with emmental cheese, Dijon mustard, various French salads and even macaroons for dessert. Customers can also drink beer with their meals.
I suppose the classic french dish of ‘steak and frites’ served with salad and baguette is not a million miles away from a McDonalds meal which consists of bread, chips, burger and salad. Perhaps we should not be surprised at all that France is now McDonald’s most profitable market outside the US, with more than 1,400 restaurants.
Monday, 19th November 2018
Philosophy - A capacity for personal reflection
Iona, has just started her final year at lycée (secondary school) and as part of her Science Bac, she must sit a four hour exam in Philosophy. The objective, she has been told, of these lessons is to develop a capacity for personal reflection.
A past paper asked the following questions :-
Is truth preferable to peace?
Does power exist without violence?
Can one be right in spite of the facts?
Perhaps you would prefer option B, which is to write a commentary on a text. In which case, here is a bit of Spinoza's 1670 Tractatus Theologico-Politicus. Or how about some Seneca on altruism?
The topics that will be covered this year are consciousness, art, existence and time, matter and spirit, society, law, duty, happiness.
And among the writers that she will need need to refer to are Plato, William of Ockham, Kant, Hegel, Schopenhauer, Heidegger, Sartre.
I am just so pleased that I didn’t have to tackle such personal reflection at 17!
Other countries have school-leaving exams which cover the history of ideas and religion and so on. But the French are very clear that that is not what theirs is.
The purpose of the philosophy Bac is not to understand the history of human thought but to leap into the stream that is the actuality of human thought.
So the purpose of teaching philosophy in theory, is to complete the education of young men and women and permit them to think.
To see the universal arguments about the individual and society, God and reason, good and bad and so on, and thus escape from the binding imperatives of the now - by which I mean the dictatorship of whatever ideas are most pressingly forced on us in the day-to-day by government, media, fashion, political correctness and so on.
How wonderful, you cannot help thinking. What a great idea. Now that is what I call civilisation.
Or is it? I mean, maybe this is one of those very French situations where the theory is all very well, but somehow reality does not behave as it is supposed to?
Because one of the effects of having such an ideas-based vision of society, and elevating ideas to such heights, is that people actually start believing in them, and then maybe they start thinking the ideas are worth fighting for, or perhaps dying for, or perhaps even killing for. And then what?
Wednesday, 14th November 2018
School bus driver slaps boy
A school bus driver, has been summoned for disciplinary proceedings after he slapped a "disrespectful” middle school boy.
Should he be disciplined?, over 200,000 people think not and have signed a petition in support of the bus driver.
So, what happened?,
The boy, who is of collège (middle school) age, crossed the road in front of the bus in a dangerous manner, forcing the driver to brake sharply, endangering the bus passengers. The driver is then reported to have reprimanded the boy on his conduct.
The adolescent is then alleged to have shouted insults back, prompting the driver to get out of the bus, leading to him reportedly slapping the boy.
There is one school of thought that believes that a child should not be slapped, whatever the provocation but conversely there is the view of Mehdi Mouhib, one of the driver’s colleagues, "I think that when [the driver] reacted like this, he was acting like a good father figure. He just wanted to give the boy a little lesson, so that he would understand that you cannot mess about in front of a 12-tonne bus."
The petition states that the driver is “known to his colleagues for his kindness and his patience”. It is also aiming to draw attention to the difficulties that many RATP staff members are said to encounter over the course of their normal working day.
The petition, which has gathered over 200,000 signatures in five days, reads: “Today, [the driver] risks being fired over the actions of a careless child.”
This situation is getting heated on both sides and the disciplinary body do not have an easy task!
Tuesday, 6th November 2018
Baguettes, a national treasure.
The french are very proud of their baguettes, and quite rightly so!, I drive 15km to our favourite boulangerie for a baguette tradition!
Baguettes could soon be recognised as an official part of France’s cultural heritage by Unesco.
If successful, French baking and patisserie would be officially recognised as “intangible cultural heritage”, and recorded on the prestigious Intangible World Heritage List.
The traditional bakery sector in France is worth €11 billion, comprising 32,000 companies and 180,000 employees.
In recent years due to a sharp drop in demand for traditionally-made bread, as well as competition from supermarkets there is a real concern for the traditional French boulangerie.
Thursday, 1st November 2018
Toussaint and chrysanthemums
Toussaint, today we celebrate the lives of family and friends that have died.
The first of November is Toussaint (All Saints' Day). This Catholic holiday is a holy day of obligation and a public holiday in France. Families come together and usually go to the cemetery to honor their deceased relatives and put chrysanthemums on their graves. In France, this is pretty much the only time of year that you see this flower, because it's associated with death here so never give chrysanthemums as a gift.
The next day is All Souls' Day. In many countries, this is the day that people are supposed to go to the cemetery. But since 2 November isn't a public holiday, the French tend to go the day before.