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Au Revoir, Baguette. Burger is Now France's Favourite Snack

20 Mar 2018 - Le hamburger has dethroned France’s traditional fast food, the baguette ham sandwich, for the first time since the country began adopting an American-style diet in the late 1960s.

After a 9 per cent jump in sales in a year, France consumed 1.46 billion hamburgers in 2017, compared with 1.22 billion jambons-beurres. The split baguette with ham and butter had been the favourite staple of bistrots, boulangeries and sandwich shops since the late 19th century.

The growing appetite for le hamburger is down to its increasing appearance on restaurant menus. Only 30 per cent of hamburgers were bought in fast-food outlets while the majority were sold at restaurants with full table service, according to Gira Conseil, a consultancy that produced the figures.

Eighty per cent of restaurants have at least one hamburger on their menu, Bernard Boutboul, director of Gira Conseil, said. “It’s often done with high quality meat and prized bread,” he added. “We made it very much a French product.”

France’s love of hamburgers is matched by a remarkable taste for pizza. The country is the world’s second biggest consumer of pizza after the United States, with an average of 10 kilogrammes eaten annually per inhabitant, double Italy’s five kilo dose per person.

The hamburger craze since the 1960s reflects France’s paradoxical approach to American popular culture. Patriots and intellectuals have long objected to McDonald’s as an arm of American imperialism. Outlets were attacked and even demolished by protesters two decades ago. Yet France is now McDonald’s most profitable market outside the United States, with more than 1,400 restaurants. “McDo”, as the French call it, has made concessions to local taste, offering McCamembert and McBaguette burgers as well as beer.

In a gesture to another American icon this week, the French treasury has issued two million commemorative euro coins engraved with the portrait of Mickey Mouse. The coins, which are legal tender, though destined for collectors, show Mickey against French backgrounds to celebrate the 90th anniversary of his creation. Disneyland Paris, which was opened 25 years ago, is one of Europe’s most visited tourist attractions.

The Times