Life

Mais non! The doggy bag will never catch on in Paris

Parisian waiters are not to be trifled with. Some look at you like you just crawled off the bottom of the hunchback of Notre Dame's shoe. And many would certainly not approve of those wanting a doggy bag. It's a cultural thing

French waiters may never fully embrace the American practice of giving diners their leftovers wrapped to take home... 

LE DOGGY Bag is a new one for la belle France. Those who own large restaurants are now required to offer doggy bags to customers to take their leftovers home. It is an effort to stop waste.

Up to now, the French probably took the expression literally: Le doggy bag – a bag for carrying your doggy.

Parisians favour the miniature variety – when you think what it costs to live in a cardboard box there, you can see the attraction of small.

Often as you wander the streets of the city of love you spy elegant madames trit-trotting down the boulevards, blonde hair swept back a la mode, nails painted by would-be Leonardos, their Versace bags slung over their shoulders.

And if you look closer, you may spy a petite poodle popping its petite head out from said bag.

Too precious to trot the trottoirs of Paris, they are forever carried, forever pampered and very often treated to their very own seat at their favourite restaurant – and a little pooch bowl just for them.

I know all this from bitter experience.

Little French dogs are substitute French babies – and you never tell a mother her baby is not pretty.

Once, on a metro train, a good friend spied an itsy bitsy dog cradled in the arms of what looked like its Parisian owner.

“That’s no dog, more like an ugly rat,” she whispered.

“Are you calling my dog a rat and an ugly one?” cried the American in Paris who knew exactly what she was saying. And we looked at the floor and she tried to laugh it off. He was not amused.

Dogs are adored in Paris – the council used to have terrible times lifting all the merde from the footpaths. Sacre bleu and slip slop you’ll be needing a bath.

They didn’t really go for doggy bags of the pooper scooper variety either – in just the same way they never believe in crossing the road at the zebra crossings, in not ever worrying about squeezing a car into a car parking space that is way too small – what’re a few bangs n bumps between friends? – and in not paying to use the metro – that’s what tourists are for.

A friend once found a stranger standing way too close in an effort to get a free trip through the metro exit doors on his ticket.

“Merci, citoyen” the free-loader whispered in his ear as he dashed out.

But let us get back to le doggy bag. Will it catch on?

Anyone who has ever sat on a pavement cafe just by the Seine knows how snotty a man in a black jacket and white apron can be. Yes, he may be taking your order, but dare you order him.

Parisian waiters are not to be trifled with. Some look at you like you just crawled off the bottom of the hunchback of Notre Dame’s shoe. And many would certainly not approve of those wanting a doggy bag. It’s a cultural thing.

You see, in France, food is an experience. The French and their cuisine, you know? Sacre bleu to the white pan loaf, we are in the land of the baguette.

Believe me, so often have I been told of the wonders of French cuisine that I’d almost swear by my best pig’s trotters that it’s true. But they lie, they lie... J’accuse.

It started off in my au pair days. I was 18, I’d never seen covers for the rings on the top of the cooker – how was I meant to know you took them off before turning the heat on?

And I’m from Ballymena. I’d never seen an artichoke, let alone been left on my own to cook one. Where do you begin? It was, shall we say, a steep learning curve.

But once I’d got used to those little surprises and once I’d learned to deal with granny’s fresh nettle soup – bright vivid green and guaranteed to give the baby a nappy or two to write home about – the letters invariably said: Take me home, oh mummy, daddy, take me home.

I survived. I loved it really. And I learned that those French people are just as handy with the tin opener as the rest of us – so they open a tin of long green beans and we open a tin of processed peas... vive la difference.

But the doggy bag – will it catch on? Even though they’re calling it the gourmet bag in the hope that it will catch on, I don’t think so. They’re just too chic for all that. Leftovers are just so not left bank.

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