What France can teach Vancouver about food

Vancouver's food scene is great but we still have a lot to learn from our European brethren. 

Credit: flickr / Adam Kuban

Are you old enough to decide what you eat? The government doesn’t think so.


Now, I don’t want to start a shit storm but after a couple of weeks back in France I’ve logged quite a few culinary practices that I’d like to take back with me. It’s not that the food here is better per se, but it does seem to be closer to its roots. There seems to be more food in the shops and fewer of what Michael Pollan refers to as “edible foodlike substances” (i.e., highly processed “foods” that are full of chemicals, such as cheese slices or fruit loops).


Desirable practices fall into three basic categories:

Regulations – Governmental regulations that control food practices for our safety.

Attitude – Our approach to food and eating on a national and social level.

Commerce – The practices of shops and manufacturers, driven by regulations, our attitude, and money.


Today’s lesson: Regulations


Non-pasteurized milk and cheeses

At the moment, there are large battles being waged in the States and close to home over the rights to buy and sell unpasteurized milk. Small farms who break the law, or who operate within small loopholes in the law are being pressured to desist.


Meanwhile, in Europe you would have a riot on your hands if you tried to make a Frenchman eat cheese made from pasteurized milk.


I’m not much for conspiracies, but it does seem like the Canadian and American dairy boards are pulling the strings on this one. As far as I’ve seen, the only side effects from eating unpasteurized cheese is that it makes you thirsty for wine, talk English with a cute accent, and have an elevated opinion of your Country’s achievements, three things that Canadians do anyway.


Steak haché


The French term for hamburger meat, steak haché is a common, cheap dinner at small restaurants and road side diners. Recently at one such highway stop, upon ordering my steak haché I was asked if I wanted mine saignant or a point (rare or medium). I’d quite forgotten that not all countries have rules demanding that my hamburger be cooked to 186° C to make sure that everything is killed off (including the taste).


Obviously Canada’s hamburger law applies to restaurants only. If I want to eat raw hamburger at home I can. On the other hand, if I want to drink unpasteurized milk, or make unpasteurized cheeses, I have to buy a cow.


It seems very hypocritical that my government won’t allow me to make an informed decision like this but is entirely happy for me to buy heavily taxed cigarettes and alcohol. I guess it’s because, unlike cheese and beef, they don’t pose any risk to my health.


Tune in soon to learn how we can improve our attitude towards food.