Does 'Au Bistro' Have a Future?

photo: bistro de la gare

The Bistro de la Gare is a popular place in Montparnasse.

The Food Wars

Paris:- Sunday, 25. July 1999:- I shouldn't make rash promises for this column. When Metropole started, I had a grand vision of sitting in a café or bistro for an hour a day, just reading the papers. A distillation of this was to be the contents of this column.

Also, I have a pal who is an old-time Fleet Street hack, and I thought he might like to take it on and give it a particular Brit spin. But he said, "No thanks. That sounds like work and I'm retired from the game."

Now he is only a twenty-minute walk away, I might take another shot at turning it over to him. Other the other hand, I like doing it. If I can get into a habit of doing it daily, it'll be a breeze. For this edition, I'm doing it the old way - a crash all-at-once flash read and tap it in.

Should I start with "Four Bodies In the Garden of the Embezzler" which Le Parisien had for a headline last Tuesday? Nah. It's not a 'Paris' story.

United States Attacks French Truffles

Trade wars are fun because they are so nonsensical. They break out on the average of about once every 18 months or so and we are having another one.

In the latest one, it is the United States vs Europe and France. Poor France; always getting it in the neck - or should I say, in the truffles, Roquefort, foie gras and mustard. And mustard?

The issue: Europe and France's refusal to allow imports of US beef treated with hormones.photo: tf1-tv: bastille day review Hasn't the United States read about our dioxin chickens, mad beeves, poisoned pork? We had the calves with hormones issue in the 80's too.

President Jacques Chirac reviewing the troops on Bastille Day, as seen by wide-screen TV. Image©tf1-TV

The odd thing is, every time one of these wars happen the issue is always Europe's refusal to take some US bulk commodity such as bananas, or in this case, beef. In retaliation the US whacks a huge import tax on French goods such as the items mentioned above - never on croissants or mineral water, for two examples.

Maybe the US thinks it has us over a barrel; that we'd rather eat beef stuffed with hormones than mad cows.

The US produces its own foie gras, but this amounts to only one percent of the world's production; while France produces 85 percent. Losing the 10 percent of production destined for the US on account of a 100 percent surtax, is something to be shrugged off relatively lightly.

But French producers of Roquefort are mumbling about the Coca-Cola affair, thinking that the Americans have nothing to teach French producers about hygiene.

These cheese producers, for whom the US has no domestic substitutes, are in fact worried about losing the two percent that the American market represents.

Some New York restauranteurs are very worried about the possible effects of the surtaxes, scheduled to be levied starting 29. July. They claim not to make huge profits off the pricey French imports - but their clients will pay only so much.

In Europe the case is different. With so much poisoned food around, these high-end foodstuffs may be the only things left safe to eat.

Duty-Free Goes Overboard

Cross-channel ferries suspended their duty-free shops at the beginning of July and now passengers are learning how these discount luxo boutiques subsidized passage fares.

The suppression of 'duty-free' within Europe is an order from Brussels, one that falls within the logic of the absence of import-export duties within the European Union. If there are no border taxes, then 'duty-free' is redundant.

However, before the introduction of the Euro, European currencies fluctuated against one anotherphoto: fish marche on leclerc and against the US dollar. This had the effect of sometimes making 'duty-free' more expensive than ordinary land-based shops in certain countries at certain times.

A big fish market on the Avenue Leclerc near Alésia.
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