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Doggy bags in France: how the French react to this foreign custom

Jean-Marc and his sacoches, or bags.

Having never seen a doggy bag at any restaurant in France, ever, I have no illustrative photo to launch this edition. However, I do have dozens of pictures of Mr Sacks (pictured left), who will be our sac à toutou standin today.

Le doggy bag (franglais)

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En France, le doggy bag, pratique américaine qui consiste à emporter dans une barquette les restes de son repas au restaurant, a du mal à s'imposer à cause d'une certaine gêne des consommateurs...  -Le Parisien

In France, the doggy bag, an American custom that consists of taking away, in a container, the leftovers of one's restaurant meal, is having a hard time gaining acceptance owing to a certain customer embarrassement...  Comments welcome here.

Mas la Monaque: rent this beautiful French home

Mas la Monaque - Rent this beautifully restored 17-century farmhouse. Click here for more pictures.

A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE... by Kristin Espinasse

One of the first cultural differences I encountered after moving to the land of bistros was this: they don't do doggy bags in la France! 

In 1990, in Aix-en-Provence, a plate of egg rolls separated me from my future husband. Egg rolls in France are different from those in the States. In France, Asian restaurants serve the fried rouleaux with sprigs of mint and leaves of lettuce in which to roll them. Les Nems, as they are called, are Jean-Marc's and my favorite entrée, and we usually order so many that by the time the main course arrives we are too full to finish it.

At the end of that first shared meal in the restaurant chinois, we had leftovers. I explained to Jean-Marc that les restes in America go into doggy bags.  Jean-Marc was amused by the term and his sensible side was quickly won over by the frugal concept. But when he tried out the idea on our waitress, asking her to box the food that remained on the serving platters, she showed neither amusement nor sensibility. In fact, she looked a bit put out by the request. 

After Jean-Marc persisted, the waitress returned with an empty plastic tub which, according to the label, had once held pistachio ice cream. She pried open the container and slid the contents of both platters—and the side-dish—inside. I watched wide-eyed as the sweet-and-sour shrimp was poured right over the canard laqué, and the riz cantonais was heaped directly on top. 

"Ça ira?" As the waitress scraped off the last grain of rice from the plates, her exaggerated gesture embarrassed me, cheapening an otherwise romantic evening. 

Walking down Aix's winding cobblestone streets after the meal, I suggested to Jean-Marc that maybe it wasn’t a good idea, after all, to ask restaurants to wrap up food. It was too awkward for everyone involved when the servers had to go scavenging for odd containers in order to be accommodating.

Jean-Marc disagreed. It was a very good idea, he assured me—no more wasted food. The French would do well to adopt the practice of asking for a doggy bag!

"But they are not doggy-bag equipped here, so there's no use trying to save the food!" As I argued my point, I walked right into a beggar. “Oh, pardon. Pardon, Monsieur!

 The homeless man, who sat on the ground beside another SDF, looked up.

"Bonsoir, Monsieur," Jean-Marc offered a warm greeting. 

I watched my date, who smiled as he crouched to the ground, offering the homeless man the "useless" invention: le doggy bag

The homeless man nodded in appreciation. After what seemed a very long pause, we said goodbye and walked on. Arm in arm, I pulled my boyfriend close. This one was a keeper.

(Today's essay is from my book "First French Essais")

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French Vocabulary

le rouleau

le nem
a kind of fried egg roll

une entrée
starter, hors-d'oeuvre

le restaurant chinois
Chinese restaurant

les restes (mpl)

le canard laqué
Peking Duck 

le riz cantonais
fried rice 

ça ira
will that do?

Bonsoir, monsieur
Good evening, sir

SDF (sans domicile fixe)
homeless person

Flower steps

Jean-Marc and his faithful sidekick, Monsieur Sacks. See more of this endearing sacoche, and the story here.

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