Lunch in Paris - Lessons We Should Learn
Lunch in Paris Equals Passion and Health
To the French, there are few things as important as good food. Excellent quality, fresh food is available everywhere - restaurants, cafes, markets, street food, small neighborhood stores, and supermarkets.
Food in Paris is nourishing to both the body and the soul. The availability and passion for fresh, tasty food is one of the reasons for such a healthy population. For instance, lunch is much more than something you gobble down at your keyboard while you work. It is a time to stop, refresh, and relish the many flavors of a multi-cultural city; a time to enjoy the company of your friends and family.
A French Restaurant Ticket
The Restaurant Ticket
The French are so dedicated to a good, healthy lunch that in 1964, they came up with the idea of the "Restaurant Ticket" or the "Lunch Ticket". This is a ticket (updated to an electronic card in 2014) which is issued by many employers to their employees who don't have access to a company cafeteria. Even company cafeteria lunches are very affordable.
This ticket allows the holder to 6.50-10€ (up to $10.20 depending on the exchange rate) toward their meal. Many restaurants have a full lunch meal for about 10€, enticing local workers to eat there. There's little excuse for meeting your friends and catching up on news or discussing the latest thoughts of the day. And it actually works well for both the employee and the economy!
Eating in Paris Recharges Your Batteries
For us in the States, it is a rare meal – especially lunch - that we stop to eat and enjoy each other. Our meals are often rushed, processed, and devoid of real nutrition.
It can be a surprise to see a huge city shut down almost completely for two hours during a busy business day, just to eat lunch. Small shops, like the boulangerie or patisserie, provide the ingredients for a lunch at home or in a park and then close for a couple hours until it’s time to provide the ingredients for dinner. The restaurants are full-tilt. But this happens - all over Paris– like clockwork.
Don't Work, Eat Your Lunch!
Less multi-tasking and more focus makes food tastes better. Frequently, you'll see groups of office friends at a bistro enjoying a relaxing lunch before returning to the office. When was the last time you met your family or friends for a relaxing lunch?
Sometimes Americans get the impression that the French don't work as hard as we do, with these long lunches. But business and school hours are later than ours are and they are still one of the top 10 economies in the world. A change of environment, a balanced meal, and fresh air can make the afternoon more productive. And the restaurant ticket allows for a complete and proper meal.
Sundays lunches are often dedicated to spending time with families, friends, and food - be it a picnic in the park with the kids or a visit to family in the country for a long, relaxing, enjoyable meal. Food is as much an intricate part of the social fabric in France as family, friends, sports, real vacations, and school.
How do you eat lunch?
Long and Leisurely Parisian Lunch
If you sit down for lunch in Paris, prepare yourself a long, relaxed lunch. It often consists of three courses. And lingering over coffee, after desert, is a must. It's easy to order a proper meal by ordering une formule or un menu. These are fixed price three or four course meals. Even with my frequent trips to Paris, it takes me a day or two to adjust.
If you must eat quickly, grab something wonderful from a food stall or un sandwich from an epicerie, boulangerie, or street vendor.
Dinner is similar, long and enjoyable, relaxing and nourishing. They also eat much later than most Americans. Remember, work and school ends later so meals are eaten around 7pm or later. Thank goodness there is never a shortage of cafes and tea houses to enjoy an afternoon snack.
© 2012 MaryBeth Walz