There’s fast food and there’s fast food and it’s here to stay. According to the Worldwatch Institute, their sales now accounts for roughly half of all restaurant revenues in the United States. But some of the most rapid growth is occurring in the developing world, where if you can afford a Big Mac, it’s a symbol of prosperity; much in the same way as being able to afford a pack of cigs – but, let’s not go there.
McDonald’s, Wendy’s, Taco Bell and your favorite neighborhood pizza parlor have been guilted into adding some healthy menu choices. But, this is as much for the parents, who saw the very low-budget movie, Super Size Me, which has had far reaching effects and even served as the impetus for some (a few) schools to start serving healthier meals. A recent study conducted by Cornell University revealed many Americans mindlessly overeat and underestimate the number of calories in any given meal. Kathleen Aicardi, M.Ed. estimates that if you’re the average American, you probably consume three hamburgers and four orders of fries each week or an average of 159 fast food meals each year.
As a result, Americans have gained weight each decade. But guess what — so have the French. The days of people in developed countries sitting down for “proper” lunches are waning and, in the process, eating on the run is the culprit for people packing in and on calories. Residents of developing countries vary from being underweight to overweight predicated on what’s agriculturally available and their indigenous dietary habits.
One of the saving graces of living in Paris is that most people are relegated to walking and/or taking the metro. Many of the distances between the metro entrance and the trains are far enough to burn off more than a modicum of calories. I always opt for the stairs rather than the escalator, because it’s invariably faster and, for experts at rationalizing, you burn off a few calories.
After returning from Paris, so many tourists who are Bonjour Paris faithfuls say they’ve eaten non-stop and are shocked when they stand on the scales only to discover they’ve lost weight. One of the main reasons is portion control. Additionally, the French tend not to use as many hydrogenised fats or pre-prepared foods. Unfortunately, this is changing.
But think about it; exactly what is fast food Paris style? Sure, there are McDo’s and students love them because so many offer free WiFi connects. Don’t be surprised if you happen on more than one business man trying to work. And even though the French gravitate to the “golden arches,” McDonald’s does run an ad campaign emphasizing that people shouldn’t eat there more than once a week in spite of their lower calorie ridden selections, such as four different salad sections and nonfat yogurt.
There are innumerable fast food emporiums in Paris and in France. But don’t expect them to necessarily be all that fast. The French haven’t really caught on to the “in and out” concept. It’s just not in their blood.
Most boulangeries (bakeries) now offer sandwiches to grab on the run. Expect bread with a slice of ham, cheese or even crudités. Don’t anticipate consuming what Americans fondly consider club sandwiches or ones which are deli-thick. Most French people look at those types of sandwiches as enigmas and are baffled how to even confront them. For that matter, most (older) French wouldn’t consider attacking a portion of a sandwich without using a fork and a knife. Who’d want to dirty their hands? Besides, it’s not polite.
Fast food in France frequently is composed of something bought from a traiteur (carry-out shop or caterer). It’s hard to walk even two blocks in Paris without encountering a store manned by Vietnamese staff where you can buy nems (tiny egg rolls) and all other types of Asian delights.
Pizzerias are abundant. There are even some which deliver. However, don’t expect the pizzas to be cheap and/or large. Frequently, they serve only one person unless you’re a starvin’ Marvin and are willing to share.
Crepes are easily had and often hit the spot for someone who is hungry but not very. Order a crepe with ham and/or cheese or one that qualifies as dessert. There’s nothing more sinful (and calorie ridden) than one filled with Nutella. Eating the gooey chocolate (so popular with children) verges on decadence. Plus, this is the definition of fast food.
Lina’s sandwich shops have caught on and are mushrooming. Their food is good and quick. Plus, you don’t feel as if you’ve consumed a plethora of calories and wasted calories.
Lebanese food such as Noura are also quick huger solutions. In addition, some of the best fast food is found in Paris’s department stores when you can eat quickly and the values are some of the best in the city. Some people I know swear by the cafeteria at the BHV.
Don’t overlook some of the food courts in museums. The one at the Louvre is especially well-known although try to avoid going precisely at lunch hour. Ditto for the Musée D’Orsay and other bastions of art and culture.
One of the best and most economical places to buy fast food is in the open markets located throughout Paris and all of France. It’s a pleasure to pick up what’s appealing to you that moment and head for the nearest bench in a favorite spot. One caveat: be prepared and carry your own silverware (or plastic), napkins and enjoy. There are a million places to have a picnic. And from the markets, you are getting the fresh food without the chemical extras.
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