I saw something today that I’ve never seen before: a French person taking food home from a restaurant. Doggy bags really are not a thing in France at all–there isn’t even a word for them–and it was a moderate scandal last year when the government passed a law requiring restaurants over a certain size to provide them. So, when the lady a couple tables over told the waiter that she wanted to take her left-over merguez (a kind of sausage) home, he brought her a piece of aluminum foil, and she wrapped them up.
What happened next surprised me even more. To set the context, you have to realize that this was a perfectly nice little cafe, not some hipster hole in the wall. Carefully-coiffed middle-aged ladies with pearls and subtle but impressive decolletage (or décolleté, as we say in these parts), silver-haired guys in sports coats and shirts with collars–that kind of thing. So, imagine that–and then imagine this lady licking her plate. Wow–I was pretty stunned. Amazingly, no one else seemed to notice.
I will happily grant that I do not have a complete handle on French table manners. However, if this is something normal, I definitely haven’t seen or heard of it before, and let me tell you, the French typically take their table manners seriously. Native speakers, can you enlighten the rest of us? Incidentally: the lunch was delicious. Café art et thé, on rue de la Roquette. A delicious lamb couscous and a glass of Côtes du Rhone set me back 15 euros. Come at 11 on a Sunday and you may find a large group of people discussing philosophy, depending on where they’re meeting that week.
- la brochette: a kebab. Typically lamb, unless otherwise specified, but ask.
- le couscous: couscous! Some say that it is becoming one of France’s national dishes. France has a large North African Arab population, and you can get excellent North African food here–Algerian, Moroccan, Tunisian, whatever.
- lécher: to lick. Yes, this is a relative of the English word lecher, in a not-too-roundabout way. The Frankish word lekko:n (the o: is a long o) gave rise to the Old French word lichiere/lechier, meaning “to live in debauchery or gluttony,” and also to the verb lécher, “to lick.” English lecher comes from lichiere/lechier. Etymology is so much more fun than you might have thought!