Saturday, March 21, 2015

The Ham Sandwich: Proof of France’s inherent conservatism

What’s in a French sandwich? asks Stephen Clarke.
 … on my way to London on the train, I was reading a fascinating French article about a study that purports to measure the cost of living in various towns and cities in France by comparing the price of a staple food: le jambon-beurre, or ham sandwich [a length of baguette filled with butter and a slice or two of ham].

 … The most surprising thing about the study, though, was the revelation that of the 2.19 billion sandwiches sold in France in 2014 (by my calculation that’s about 43 sandwiches per French person in possession of teeth), a whopping 58 per cent of them were “au jambon“. That’s not just a popular sandwich – it’s a totalitarian régime. Of the other 42 per cent I’d be willing to bet that another 30 per cent are “mixte” which usually means jambon-fromage. And then at least 10 will be fromage (usually gruyère) or saucisson (salami).

 … The sandwich statistic is, I think, yet more proof of France’s inherent conservatism. Give your average Parisian the chance to open up a sandwich shop and they’ll opt to go the way of the 58 per cent. (I say average because there are of course some people who go crazy and open bagel shops, pitta parlours, smoked fish stores and even gluten-free havens). Give your average Londoner the same opportunity and watch out for flying halloumi.

There is nothing wrong with this, by the look of things. The French truly love their jambon-beurre, and we all love France for its eternal Frenchness.  I’m the same when it comes to beer. I want beer that tastes of beer. Start wafting fruit juice or honey or chocolate anywhere near a beer barrel, as many people are doing these days, and I will howl with outrage. To each their own conservatism.