Paris May 23, 2008

I don’t know when it was that McDonald’s first came to Paris but I could not fathom how they would be successful. After all Paris is one of the ultimate gourmet eating destinations on the planet. Well it is in the top ten, at least.  Most of the French that I have met are enamored with the American political experiment but not with our food. In fact the word restaurant is a French word and a French invention. The French revolution killed off the aristocracy by the thousands thereby unemploying some of the world’s best chefs.  What to do? All they knew how to do was to cook so that is what they did.  With their payroll cut off, the chefs went home started to cook, pull out tables from their kitchen and set it up in front of their residence. Add a candle, a few doilies and let aromas do the advertising. The peasantry, accustomed to eating stale black bread or nothing at all under the ancient regime, soon acquired a somewhat more sophisticated pallet.

Today, one has to try extraordinarily hard to find a bad meal.  The only reason I ever go to a U.S. McDonald’s when I am traveling is to use their bathroom. I swore to myself that I would not be caught dead in a French McDonald’s.  Furthermore, why would any French person worth their bread eat at a McDonald’s? Nevertheless, McDonald’s came with their fast, fat and fried menu along with their standard fare of American drinks including ‘brown water’. The French have no problem with eating fat. They eat as much or more than we Americans but use their feet more often consequently it is less noticeable.  Predictably McDonald’s struggled as the French snubbed fast fried American.

However, I did not count on Ronald being clever. After a rocky start McDonald’s noticed that people were in fact coming in their restaurants. A massive advertising campaign and huge fan blowing the warm air from across their French fries onto the Champs Elysee didn’t hurt. You have to admit that their fries, if you ignore the ingredients, do smell and taste good. Furthermore, the French are suckers for at least one thing fried — sliced potatoes.  They eat them with everything from beef Burgoyne to snails. Being cheap and convenient added a certain élan and voila — the impossible possible. The Big Mac number crunchers noticed that their coffee (a.k.a. l’eau brune), a French staple, still wasn’t selling. In fact what they found was people were bringing in their own coffee. Yes, yes — in France it is forbidden just as in the US to bring in outside food or drink into a restaurant but the French will ignore any law they don’t agree with and if the government attempts any sort of enforcement they  organize massive demonstrations.

Ronald adapts: Mac Crunchers further note that coffee in a French café costs anywhere from 3 to 6 euros depending on chic. That’s $4.60 to $9.10.  Ronald stealthily buys the same Italian coffee and espresso makers. He sells it for 1 euro and adds free WiFi (pronounced WeeFee).  Ronnie my man!!! Entrée Alex.

Sigh…. Yes, I confess I am not yet dead and a regular Mac Donald’s addict, but of course with an added French twist. In the morning I pack my Mac laptop, go to my favorite patisserie and purchase a tasty tarte or croissant. Then I am off to Ronnie’s Café for my cheap coffee and free weefee.

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