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Little Spouse On The Prairie: Burger And The King

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As we traveled through the Chunnel from the UK to France, we started talking about food we were leaving behind and the French cuisine we were excited to try. We laughed about the London pubs’ funny names...

As we traveled through the Chunnel from the UK to France, we started talking about food we were leaving behind and the French cuisine we were excited to try. We laughed about the London pubs’ funny names. In the UK, we had eaten at so many restaurants that included the word “and.” For some reason, the English love to name their dining establishments things like “The Rose and the Crown,” “The Hare and the Hound,” “The Horse and Groom,” “The Hand and the Flower,” and “The Cat and the Fiddle.” There was even a place called “The Bat and the Ball.”

We got to talking about how American restaurants should start doing that too. We decided we really need to elevate our discourse a little when it comes to eating out. We should have “The Apple and the Bee,” “The Pizza and the Hut,” or “The Burger and the King.” I personally like the sound of “The Dairy and the Queen, “The Sub and the Way,” and the “The Olive and the Garden.”

We also noticed some that were named after body parts, especially arms and heads. We saw “The Mason’s Arms,” “The Carpenter’s Arms,” “The Butcher’s Arms,” and “The Queen’s Arms.” And lest we get confused about which queen, we also saw “The Old Queen’s Arms.” Glad we got that settled. Heads were also fair game, with “The Queen’s Head,” in addition to “The Knight’s Head.” Joel’s favorite was “The Nag’s Head,” because he said he missed my home cooking. Dashiell was waiting for “The Queen’s Bum,” but we never saw a pub by that name.

When we popped out of the Chunnel into France, I breathed a sigh of relief. Ah, the joie de vivre! We were all eager for a change in cuisine – it was time for the toad to leave the hole!

Joel really wanted to try ratatouille, because the animated movie with the chef-mouse is one of his favorites. We were all game to taste crepes fromage, soufflé chocolat, and maybe even escargot. As our eyes adjusted to the bright light after leaving the tunnel, we scanned for a good place to eat. Dashiell was overjoyed, as the first three food places we saw in France were KFC, McDonalds, and Subway. Near the exit of the Chunnel, we actually had to search for a French restaurant.

The amount of American fast food available in France floored us! We learned later that the French refer to this influx of American fast food chains as malbouffe, or “bad food.” I only wish I were kidding. Apparently, McDonald’s has its second-most profitable market in France. Listeners can guess its first.

But I will say this: An American McDonalds and a French McDonalds are not equivalent. For starters, when customers first walk in to a French McDonalds, they are greeted by a separate pastry counter called McCafé. In this area, a person can buy beautiful little individually wrapped cakes, gourmet coffee and tea, and a selection of homemade breads and pastries. Perhaps I am eating in the wrong ones, but I’ve never seen this kind of display in an American McDonalds.

Once customers walk past the McCafé area, they see luxurious booths, furniture befitting a fine dining establishment, and lounging areas. We ate in only two French McDonalds during our time there, but both were similar in layout. At one, the menu of McSalads was more diverse than that of most of US sit-down restaurants I have patronized. The burgers and other sandwiches are made with local cheeses and breads, and the fries come with pomme frite sauce, which is white and tastes of vinegar and bleu cheese.

Clementine ordered a Happy Meal and her prize was a lovely little hardcover book. Once she becomes fluent in French, she can read it to us.

KFC’s have different offerings as well. My son was disappointed at one KFC because it didn’t have fried chicken that day. Seriously. They had only poulet roti, which is roast chicken.

Don’t worry. We did find plenty of little bistros and fine dining establishments throughout our few days in France. Joel got to try his ratatouille, and we all had plenty of crepes, mousse, bread, and cheese, which explains why, four days in, we were already fitting significantly tighter in the little rental than we had upon our departure.

Tune in for beaucoup fun next week; meanwhile, check out the Little Spouse Facebook and Twitter pages.