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What the papers said 20 December 2018

rfi English, Dec 20

Le Monde today launches a new section called L’assiette en tête, literally “the plate in the head.” Despite the title, it’s not a look behind the scenes at French domestic violence. The topic, in fact, is food. A more reasonable translation of L’assiette en tête would be “Plates first”. The idea is to look at what the French eat today, as they struggle through an era in which, Le Monde assures us, culinary certitudes are taking a beating.

In the old days, back in 1960, the French used to spend relatively more on food than they do today. They all bought the same things, in the same corner shop. Eating habits had basically not changed since the Revolution.

We do things differently now, choosing from a much wider range of food types, and making dietary decisions for environmental, aesthetic or medical reasons.

Some statistics to get your teeth into: the average French person consumes 1060kg of food and drink each year, at the rate of 2.9 kilos per day. That costs 3600 euros annually. Meaning that the national food bill comes to 232 billion euros per calendar year.

Three-quarters of that mountain of grub is guzzled at home, the rest being put away in cafés, canteens, restaurants and bistros.

Two-thirds of French home-cooked food is bought from a supermarket.

So, what are we buying?

Basically, less meat and more organic produce.

The last decade has seen French meat consumption decline by 12 percent, to a still impressive 48 kilos of dead animals per person per year.

Vegetarians represent less than 2 percent of the population, but 34 percent describe themselves as “flexitarians”, cutting down their consumption of meat and fish without giving up completely.

The health-food market has boomed in the same decade, with sales of organic grub growing from less than two billion euros in 2005 to well over eight billion today.

And what about sexual stereotypes?

Women eat yoghurt, fruit and chicken, washed down with soup.

Men stuff themselves with cheese, spuds, sandwiches, meat and creamy desserts, with a bottle of booze on the side.


We waste about 3 percent of the food we buy. Which doesn’t sound too bad until you realize that it amounts to 30kgs of edibles going straight to the bin every year for every one of us.

And 4 percent of the French suffer from allergies, most of them going green at the sight of a milk product, a vegetable or a shellfish.


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