Sunday, June 15, 2014

Burgers, Bagels and Begging

Several things have struck me as new to Paris since we were last here and none of them make me very happy.  You may recall my posts several years ago about the influx of American food.  Not so long ago it was difficult to find a hamburger, particularly a good one, in Paris.  Granted, most American visitors aren't here in search of a great burger, but the occasional craving wasn't easily satisfied.

This visit it is hard to avoid the nearly ubiquitous burger joints. Places specializing in hamburgers are all over the place, particularly in the gentrifying quartiers.  Traditional cafés have given way to Le Burger.  There is a very successful place called Big Fernand around the corner from the apartment.  And adding insult to injury, its next door neighbor is a fish and chips shop.

As an aside, I have also noticed that the more traditional salade niçoise has been replaced in many cases by the salade César, which for the French means romaine, Parmesan and always, always, chicken. Not an anchovy in sight.

As if the hamburger invasion was insufficient, the other every-other-storefront surprise is the bagel.  Yes, the French have fallen in love with the bagel, or at least something round and called that.  Having neither the desire nor the courage to try one, my evaluation is based only on the look of the pale, soft things in the window.  I do recall several years ago being invited to a pot luck brunch here and asked to bring bagels.  That required a several day search and I finally found them in the upscale Bon Marché food hall, in a plastic package.  Plus ça change...

Amusing as all this may be, the really upsetting change is the proliferation of families, apparently immigrants of Central European appearance, spending days and nights on mattresses on the street.  Most often it's a mother and one or two very small children, sometimes there is a man as well.  I'm used to the young Rom women begging on the street and the haggard old men begging in cafés, but entire families living on the street on a mattress is more than startling.


6 comments:

Nadege said...

When I go to France, I land at CDG but forgo Paris completely so today's post makes me very sad. My whole family lives in the "departements" of Aveyron, Herault, Lot and Tarn et Garonne so I was thinking to take a flight to JFK then a connection to either Toulouse or Nice. I've also thought of taking a direct flight to Zurich or Barcelona.

Shelli said...

Since we nearly always fly into CDG I can't comment on flying to other airports, although I once made a connection in Paris to Toulouse and it worked quite well. Does your family live in the countryside or in a town in those departements?

Nadege said...

I have done the CDG-Blagnac many times as well as Orly-Rodez. I just want to skip CDG and its mess, strikes, crowding all together. My parents just moved into a retirement home in the countryside (St Geniez d'Olt) but their home is in Rodez (Aveyron), right across the new "Musee Soulage". My older sister lives in Rodez and has a countryside house in a gorgeous area near the Aubrac region. My other sister lives near Saint Cirq Lapopie. My nephew lives in Rodez. One niece lives near Lodeve in Herault (Languedoc region). Another niece in Toulouse and the last one in a small city in Haute Garonne with beautiful views of the Pyrenees. I also have great grand nieces and nephews that are very young. My parents, sisters and I are all from Burgundy but somehow, everybody ended up in the Southwest (Midi-Pyrenees) part of France.

Nadege said...

I forgot : Michel Bras's restaurant is in the Aubrac near Laguiole (not far from my sister country home). If you can, you should visit that hotel- restaurant. The whole region is really unbelievably beautiful.

JSB said...

Although a much less frequent visitor to Paris than you, this is disheartening. Are we witnessing the globalization of squalor--Shattuck Avenue writ large?

Shelli said...

JSB, I think it's the globalization of poverty. Very saddening.

Nadege, I once spent the night in Villefranche-en-Rouergue, not too far from your sister's place. I agree, it's lovely country.