How to lose 10lb fast! Be a vegetarian in France.

Remember all that fuss a few years ago about a diet book called “French Women Don’t Get Fat”? It’s come to light that the publishers left a word out of the title.

It should read “Vegetarian French Women Don’t Get Fat”, with the subtitle: “We Ride Horses, The French Eat Them”.

A vegetarian salad in France is one where the cow’s heart, liver, kidneys and anal glands have been removed from your plate at the table and replaced with bacon. Or a crayfish with an accusing look on its face.

Being a vegetarian in France is like being an intellectual in Ipswich. You stand out like a sore thumb, no one understands you and frankly everyone just wishes you’d leave – as quickly as possible.

A press trip looms to the epicentre of excellent cuisine (as a fully qualified war bore, I tend to be invited to write long, florid pieces about seminal WW1/WW2 anniversaries. I’d post some, but the pretentiousness might kill you by paragraph four) and I’m already stockpiling emergency rations for when I am unable to find anything without a face to eat from a French menu.


French Vegetarian Salad

French Vegetarian Salad

The last time I hopped over the Channel for some war anniversary or other, I watched my colleagues enjoying six courses of French cuisine while I debated the finer points of vegetarianism with the waiter. I say “debated the finer points of vegetarianism”, I mean “drew pictures of carrots while weeping”.

After 19 hours of high level talks and etchings, the restaurant – a centre of gastronomic excellence – produced a meat-free option for me.

It was three pieces of cheese and a slice of bread.

On other days, I fared better. Once, I was given a plate of plain pasta with two chives placed on top – for this, my Granddad lied about his age to join the Army and fought at the Somme.

Thanks to our deeply inadequate education system and our inherent mistrust of anything foreign, there are only about three people in Britain who understand French menus, and they’re all too traumatised to speak of the horrors they have seen.

Everything on the menu looks fantastic, but that’s because you have absolutely no idea what it is and are simply bowled over by the fact it’s written in another language. The French telephone directory would look equally tasty.

A typical French menu reads as follows (V indicates vegetarian option):

* Bald eagle stuffed with peacock entrails, served with a side salad of offal and goujons of horse.

* Slices of raw baby seal presented inside a whole frog and accompanied by otter fritters and kitten stew.

* Bottlenose dolphin, clubbed to death at your table, with hummingbird sorbet and a fan of lightly-seared timber wolf wafers.

* Lightly cooked calf’s brain in a vinaigrette followed by scallops stuffed with selected glands and lungs, served with a snail soufflé.

* Bacon salad (V).

Incidentally, one of those menu options is a genuine meal I had to watch someone eating on my last visit (and here’s a clue: it wasn’t the bacon salad).

At times I wondered why the waiters didn’t just cut out the middle man by putting a raw cow on the table and giving everyone a spoon.

And the drink, mon Dieu, the drink.

We are forever being told that the Europeans are streets ahead of us when it comes to their attitude to alcohol, and that what we call child abuse (giving Jean-Pierre wine at the age of two) they call a “relaxed drinking culture”.

According to the French, the Brits approach licensing laws like a parched man in the desert who comes across a water fountain – we drink as much as we can as quickly as we can and then we fall over, vomit, fight or stand in the road shouting “Darren leave it – he i’nt worth it.”

In France nobody spends their weekend binge drinking and passing out on the pavement. This is mainly because they are all far too pissed to get to the pub, having had their first aperitif at 6.30am.

They drink in the morning. They drink at lunchtime. They drink in the afternoon. They drink in the evening. I’m not entirely convinced that they don’t spend the night hooked up to a wine drip.

Now that I have learnt that a “relaxed drinking culture” means being drunk all the time, as opposed to a few hours at the weekend, I am finally ready to accept the European way of life.

The French drink so much because they’re expected to eat the stuff our slaughterhouses stick in the bin – without this hurdle, the Brits can just embrace the grape without feasting on pets and guts.

PS French women do get fat. I heard one swearing when she got stuck in a turnstile at a museum – one thing’s for sure; she wasn’t a vegetarian.


17 Responses to “How to lose 10lb fast! Be a vegetarian in France.”

  1. April 11, 2009 at 2:33 pm

    The French are suckers for style, WIB. They’ll only respect vegetarians who wear saffron robes and speak in philosophical riddles (remember Master Kan?). If you put on the robes and learn the riddles, I’ll be your escort the next time you visit France. (Gorillas are have a vegetarian diet apart from the insects).

  2. April 11, 2009 at 3:18 pm

    We have a “Lose Ten Pounds” program in the States. Just eat unrefrigerated fish. I lost 15 pounds that way last summer. The only side effects were a dangerously high fever, vomiting, and perpetual diarrhea.

  3. April 11, 2009 at 4:13 pm

    I’m a crad-carrying carnivore, but I don’t know about hearts, livers, and kidneys. I’ll have to draw the line at strictly appendages and other stuff you can wrap a tourniquet around.

    Great blog!

  4. April 11, 2009 at 5:22 pm

    OMG, this is my worst nightmare. Because I’m a vegetarian (which not a pescatarian, by the way – that makes me crazy). You have seriously diminished my desire to go to France. Please don’t do this for any other countries – I want to keep my dreams.

    On second thought, maybe I could get enough calories through drinking.

  5. April 11, 2009 at 5:32 pm

    Try going to Spain if you don’t like olives or pork.

  6. April 11, 2009 at 5:41 pm

    Um, my entire family was born in Ipswich. I’ve been there and I found everyone to be of superior intullect… intellext…? intellact…? Never mind, my point is – they’re all smart. Did you know that Ipswich once formed an important route inland to rural towns and settlements via the Orwell and Gipping? It’s true. I read it in Wikipedia. Also, it’s the number one producer of cabbage and village idiots. My father was a village idiot and his father before him was too. It’s a proud and noble tradition. But unfortunately, the village idiot is now a dying breed,,, Luckily, we can still save them, but time is running out. There are only a handful of ‘em left, and they need our help… Not only have these wonderful idiots from Ipswich delighted the masses with their whacked out antics, drool cups, and inexplicable facial tics, but they making the rest of the world’s morons look really, really smart. In Ipswich there is a village idiot sanctuary. It’s fascinating. You can actually watch them in their natural habitat. It’s totally amazing to actually see them up close. I took some pictures but unfortunately one of them ate my camera.

  7. April 11, 2009 at 8:05 pm

    We have two hard core vegetarians in our office and they’re sick all the time…go figure. And as for the French, oh never mind.

  8. April 11, 2009 at 8:07 pm

    Heh-heh…you said “anal glands”. (Which sounds very tasty, by the way).

    Why the hate for the French? Is it their lack of bathing skills or the ladies flowing under arm hair?

    And that drink fast, vomit, and fight comment. Are you sure you weren’t talking about the Yanks? (For what it’s worth, I usually pass out at the fighting stage).

  9. April 12, 2009 at 12:13 am

    TL…would you like a little “tossed salad” with your anal glands?

  10. 10 Ram Venkatararam
    April 12, 2009 at 1:27 am

    A great post WIB. I love the menu.

    And I really do think that if you are going to spend big money on the bottlenose dolphin plate you should get the whole experience and see it clubbed to death at your table. (Or, better yet, be allowed to kill it yourself with an unopened bottled of Château Potensac 1989. That’s living baby!).

    Thanks. Funny stuff.

  11. April 12, 2009 at 12:02 pm

    An excellent post. I started to write a response, but when it got to its second page, I thought I’d better turn it into my own blog entry. I have, of course, credited your entry.

  12. 12 JonnyB
    April 12, 2009 at 5:48 pm

    Well I ate a hot dog at Eurodisney the other week and I’m turning bloody vegetarian in protest.

  13. April 13, 2009 at 7:05 pm

    I actually find there’s very few places where they truly accomodate vegetarians and vegans. I’m no longer vegetarian — haven’t been for years — but sometimes, I’d rather not have a hunk of flesh for a meal. Aside from parts of London and cities along the coast of the U.S. and Canada, it’s really hard to travel and find vegetarian meals (except in like, India). It’s no easy feat.

  14. 14 pinnythewu
    April 14, 2009 at 3:47 am

    I’ll have the dolphin please

  15. April 14, 2009 at 5:47 pm

    Thank you all for your comments, and apologies that I’ve been ‘out of office’. In fact the reason I’ve been AWOL is entirely due to the fact I’ve been ‘in office’, literally rather than Presidentially.
    Am back now, and crafting my latest epic. Having been told off for using an image illegally (‘I sue randomly,’ said the owner, which is either frightening or bizarre if he’s referring to bringing random law suits about anything under the sun)I am suitably chastened. I may start drawing my pictures, although I think Bearman and Unemployed Dad have cornered that particular market.

  16. April 15, 2009 at 7:07 pm

    I had a friend who worked as an au pair for a year for a family in Netherlands. She had a lot of funny stories, but my favorite is the only Dutch she remembered a year later was what the kids used to yell at her all the time: “Wipe my ass, please.”

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