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As Kids Become "Too American," French Schools Ration Ketchup

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French officials "are concerned that children are starting to neglect French foods in favor of 'US-style snacks,'" according to Time's Megan Gibson.

Explains Gibson:

The new rules state that cafeterias must offer four to five dishes every day, including a main course, a starter or dessert and a dairy product such as cheese or yogurt. Baguettes and bread should be available for every meal, but ketchup and its gloppy condiment cousin, mayonnaise, will only be allowed with certain foods. Ketchup will provided with fries; however, they'll only be served once a week.

"We have to ensure that children become familiar with French recipes so that they can hand them down to the following generation," Christophe Hebert, chairman of the National Association of Directors of Collective Restaurants, said. "We absolutely have to stop children from being able to serve those sorts of sauces to themselves with every meal. Children have a tendency to use them to mask the taste of whatever they are eating."

But Jim White of The Telegraph thinks this is precisely what makes ketchup indispensable:

Like the Academie Française does with the language, Hebert wants his body to act as culinary policeman, preserving the French way with a sauce. This is his first move against invasive eating habits. But he is about to deprive French children of a miraculous gastronomic invention. Far from a malevolent invader, the cuckoo in the bechemel’s nest, ketchup is a work of genius, a smile on the plate. Not to mention a brilliant addition to any cook’s repertoire. A splodge of ketchup enlivens a ragu, makes a shepherd’s pie sing, perfectly thickens gravy.


Hebert seems to think children enter school already alert to the delights of parsnips, broccoli and veal in a blue cheese sauce, and the only thing preventing them from engaging with their birthright is a coating of Mr Heinz’s favourite. In fact, in most parents’ experience, it is the other way round.

Far from acting as a barrier to making their child’s palate more sophisticated, ketchup serves as the bait. A little smudge of the child-friendly red goo on an unfamiliar dish quickly wins any infant round to the more subtle, worthwhile flavours within. Used like that, ketchup is the gourmand’s friend.

Interestingly, French parents are up in arms.

From Sophie Pilgrim of France 24:

Like any issue that involves food, the French did not take kindly to the news. Objectors spent no time in bombarding online articles with poorly executed tirades in the comments section. “Our children are being forced to eat insipid hospital food!” squawked one reader on the website of left-leaning daily Le Monde. “More like prison food,” huffed another. Someone else went as far as blaming President Sarkozy for the “offensive” policy. But those who remained calm enough to outline their reasons against the approach agreed that if children are “force-fed” vegetables, they will surely end up in the bin, and the kids will go hungry. Which is a fair point.

It may come as a surprise, but French pupils do not dine on oysters and veal cutlets. Like the rest of us, they are doled out tasteless slabs of meat and soggy vegetables, leaving only half of secondary school pupils satisfied. For French kids between the ages of six and 18, pizza and chips top the popularity charts every time. Just like everywhere else.

Yes, it seems that French kids will give up their ketchup and "US-style snacks" when their culinary overlords pry them from their cold, dead hands.

After all, as Ms. Pilgrim points out, France is Europe’s biggest consumer of McDonalds -- and the second-largest market for MCD in the world -- where the Golden Arches are "affectionately and universally known simply as ‘McDo.'"

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