Fighting The French Fast Food Nation… One Cooking Lesson At A Time

An interesting Associated Press article concerning French foodways made its way into the Daily News. Philippe Gauvreau, chef of Lyon’s Michelin-starred La Rotonde restaurant, hosts monthly food nights for children. Each month, his children join 30 other kids to watch chefs prepare a traditional meal and, of course, eat it. This being France, the lessons tend towards things American children would never be allowed to try:

During the lesson, chickens that were to be ground into sausage lay - intact - on the stainless steel counters, their unplucked necks bent at an alarming angle. The younger children blinked in disbelief as Gauvreau deftly relieved a chicken of its appendages: Off came the claws, the wings and finally, with a flourish of the glinting knife, the white feathered head. Brandishing severed drumsticks, he explained how to distinguish healthy chickens from hormone-filled factory farm varieties. If the meat sticks to the bone, it’s a free-range bird that built muscle through exercise, not hormones, he said. He passed around a leg and the kids pushed and pulled. The meat resisted their prodding. For Gauvreau, such awareness is more important than teaching techniques for chopping onions or whisking cream. “We’re giving the kids the tools they need to make decisions about what to put onto their bodies,” he said. Gauvreau doesn’t dumb down his repertoire for his young students, and there are no simplified, kiddie variations on his recipes: He and his assistant chefs teach the children to prepare the dishes just as they would for the restaurant’s clients. And it can get complicated. Boudin blanc sausage requires dozens of steps, and one misstep can turn a dessert’s caramelized bananas into a sweet goo. Perhaps it’s for the best, then, that lessons are taught in the old-school French style: The instructor demonstrates and pupils look on. Gauvreau delegated certain tasks - separating egg whites, grinding bread into crumbs, slicing chicken breasts into food-processor-friendly chunks - but the show remained decidedly his.

Ultimately, France deals with bad food just like America does. Homegrown fast food chains are everywhere, and, alas, they love mediocre white bread just as much as we do. The children attending Gauvreau’s classes also have parents who can pay the steep tuition and come from a mostly middle-class background. That means they’re among the ones who are least likely to survive on a diet of cheeseburgers and greasy kebabs. But still.

Not so fast [Daily News]

[Image via AP/DN]

Fighting The French Fast Food Nation… One Cooking Lesson At A Time