There’s major drama in France over which food establishments can officially call themselves “restaurants.” It turns out that American fantasies of French food are filled with bullshit: Tons of “classic” dishes are made in a suburban factory, frozen, microwaved weeks later, and then — voilà! — presented as expensive, gourmet entrées. The National Union of Hotel, Restaurant and Cafe Operators conducted a survey and found that one third of French restaurants acknowledged serving frozen food, which, scarily, means the actual number of restaurants that do this is higher.
The French National Assembly has approved an idea to make restaurants that cook their own food slap a “house-made” (“fait-maison“) logo on their menus, which would make establishments that abstain look shady. But many think that doesn’t go far enough.
Some lawmakers (and chefs like Alain Ducasse) are suggesting that the country limit the use of the title “artisan restaurant” or, more simply, “restaurant” to 20,000 out of 150,000 establishments. Others think that all of these special designations are confusing and put smaller, poorer restaurant owners at a disadvantage. Ready-made meals at restaurants are offensive, but frozen vegetables are less so. What constitutes as “homemade” these days, anyways? Are we all stuck in Sandra Lee’s semi-homemade world?