Haute But Reheated, Ctd

The new French law demanding transparency on whether restaurant dishes are homemade continues to cause controversy. Marc Naimark points out that the law assumes ready-made as the default:

If you’re the kind of consumer who likes to know where your food comes from, this might sound like a pretty good idea, but au contraire: This law is as flawed as they come.

The logo itself comprises one problem with the law: It requires that all homemade dishes be identified, under penalty of a fine of up to 300,000 euros and two years in jail. That’s right: If you dare make real food without labeling it as such, you can go to jail. The fact that identifying homemade food as such is not an option but an obligation strikes everyone I’ve spoken to here in Paris as nonsensical. How fair is it that the burden of compliance lies on those offering real food—the people this law is supposed to protect—rather than the purveyors of factory-made food? (It’s worth noting that those hefty fines are in fact not likely to be applied: The country’s consumer protection inspectors are already overworked, and past menu labeling efforts have gone mostly unenforced.)

Naimark adds this “shocking” tidbit:

Chefs need not make their own stocks and basic sauces. French cooking is founded on its sauces: How can a cook unwilling or unable to prepare his own sauces claim to be making quality food?

Those still reeling from the news that French food isn’t all lovingly crafted from scratch – and, consequently, that those amazing Parisian meals may just have been a welcome respite from a day of touring the city – may take some comfort in the following WSJ story about the state of Gallic school cuisine. Christina Passariello and Marion Halftermeyer report from Paris:

Baptiste gingerly tasted a puff pastry with the tip of his tongue before squishing up his face in disgust. The 2½ year-old gastronome doesn’t like cream.

“I don’t want to try the berry,” added Emy, crossing her toddler arms across her chest.

In France, a country obsessed with good eating, even food for junior must be gourmet. [Jamila] Aissaoui was one of 14 day-care cooks participating in a recent bake-off in Paris. The best recipes will be published in a cookbook and could enter the repertoire of four-course meals that are served to more than 33,000 children under the age of three at the city’s day-care centers. …

Public schools and day-care centers see it as part of their educational mission to teach children—with the help of chefs like Ms. Aissaoui—to eat a diet as broad as it is balanced. Crèches, as French day-care centers are known, serve children as young as 1 year-old sophisticated ingredients such as leeks, Roquefort cheese and dark chocolate, to encourage adventurous palates.