|Some of Calvin Trillin's books about food and travel.
His wife Alice and his young daughters play a big role.
"Sarah had never felt completely comfortable in establishments where a special order is necessary to get anything but the ornately dressed hamburgers the fast-food chains specialize in. She had always eaten her hamburgers just plain --- except for what one fast-food menu I saw in Paris described as "une touche de ketchup." (p 71)
And in case you need to understand Trillin's goals, he explains:
"I was under no illusion about finding hamburgers that blotted out memories of my childhood in Kansas City, or French fries that rivaled the kind of freshly cut, triple-fried pommes frites that had helped persuade Sarah that France might be a place where one could avoid starvation after all.... The word 'authentic' somehow seemed inappropriate, but I was sort of curious to see whether Paris fast-food joints were authentic." (p. 74)
Freetime clearly didn't fill the bill. "As a start," says Trillin, "the hamburgers were rectangular." Burger King, in contrast, with its round and recognizable burgers, "was striving to be Burger King, and that left no room for herbes de Provence." The atmosphere in Burger King -- other than not being near a major US highway -- conformed to normal Burger King expectation.
As for the general method of judging, Trillin says:
"I did not … approach the Champs-Élysées in a resentful mood, like one of those boosters of American culture who keep asking why French intellectuals can't spend a little more time studying American contributions to modern dance and a little less time celebrating the middle films of Jerry Lewis." (p. 76)
The MacDonald’s in Paris in the eighties were fairly new, replacing an earlier effort with a franchise that was cancelled because the American MacDonald’s felt that the proprietor of the outlets “was not maintaining company standards in matters like cleanliness.” (I remember this well.) Trillin continues:
After being deprived of his franchise by a Chicago judge, the owner “changed the name of his outlets to O’Kitch. The standard sandwich of O’Kitch became a Kitchburger. … The names of the dishes served by a fast-food restaurant in Paris are normally just variations on one English word — almost any English word. Freetime’s word, of course, was ‘Hit.’ Dallas Burger, I found, offered a Big Dallas, a Dallas Burger, a Cheese Dallas, and a Fish Dallas. A place called Fun Burger had a Funny Burger, a Funny Cheese, and a Funny Fish.” (p. 79)
“Well, it’s complicated… Also, what would the French know about such things.” (p. 81)
|The Golden Arches and the Arc de Triomphe,
as photographed on the Champs Elysée much more recently.
(Perfect photo from a random website!)