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RESTAURANT

French ditch pet hate to welcome doggy bags

Long snubbed as the risible trademark of boorish Anglo-Saxon diners, the doggy bag is set to make its appearance in France, a top restaurant body said on Wednesday.

French ditch pet hate to welcome doggy bags
Is there a place for doggy bags in French dining culture? Photo: Ipwrangler/Roland/Flickr

The idea of taking uneaten portions of meals home has been frowned upon for decades in France, but the Union of Hotel Professions (UHP) said doggy bags had become necessary to combat the problem of food waste.

The European Union says restaurant left-overs represent 14 percent of the growing squander.

In a sign that even tradition-bound dogs can learn new tricks, a recent poll in the south-eastern Rhone-Alpes region found that 95 percent of the 2,700 people questioned were prepared to use doggy bags after dining out.

The UHP said it has signed an agreement with the aptly-named TakeAway company to supply restaurants with microwave-friendly boxes and sacks as it seeks to "generalize the use of doggy bags".

SEE ALSO: Why the French don't do restaurant 'doggy bags'

TakeAway is even offering specialized bags in which diners can carry unfinished bottles of wine — something even shamelessly doggy-bagging American tourists would hesitate to ask for.

A 2012 law sought to increase recycling of waste, forcing restaurants to sort and reduce what they threw away, with wider use of doggy bags being one way of scaling back food waste.

But with France still being France, someone must now come up with an appropriately French rendering of what remains the very Ango-Saxon term "doggy bag".

Speaking to The Local previously, Laurent Calvayrac the founder of a French green packaging company, and a doggy bag proponent, said his countrymen are taught from an early age to eat everything on their plate.

“Like many French people I was raised with the instruction ‘You will finish what I put on your plate’. So even now when I go out to eat, no matter the size of the portion, I finish everything even if I’m full,’ Emballage Vert founder Calvayrac told The Local. “So doggy bags are simply not part of the French way of doing things.”

CULTURE

How to make the most of France’s ‘night of museums’ this weekend

More than 3,000 French museums will stay open long past their bedtimes on Saturday May 14th for the 18th Long Night of Museums.

How to make the most of France's 'night of museums' this weekend

The annual event takes place on the third Saturday in May each year in towns and cities across the whole of Europe. There are temporary exhibitions, themed guided visits, musical entertainment, lectures, concerts, food tasting, historical reconstructions and re-enactments, and film projections. Best news of all, almost everything is free. 

Here’s The Local’s guide to getting the most out of the night:

Plan, plan, then throwaway the plan

Consult the online programme and map out your route. A little preparation will make the night much easier – 3,000 museums will be open long into the night in France, and you don’t want to waste hours standing on a bridge arguing about where to go next. 

The site has suggestions for major cities, including Lyon, Dijon, Bourges, Strasbourg, Lille, Rouen, Bordeaux, Toulouse, and Marseilles. And four museums that have been closed to the public for years – Musée de Cluny in Paris, the Musée de Valenciennes, the Forum antique de Bavay in Nord and the Musée départemental Albert-Khan in Boulogne-Billancourt – are reopening on the night.

So, decide where you’re going beforehand – then feel free to dump your carefully plotted plan in a bin when you overhear someone else talking about this extraordinary thing they have discovered and go with the flow.

Be patient

When you are consulting the official website, try not to scream. You have to navigate a map rather than a traditional programme format – though, at least, this year it’s broken down in to French regions, which is marginally less frustrating.

It is actually much easier if you know the specific museums you are interested in visiting, as they have individual programmes of events. But half the fun of a night like this is visiting somewhere you’ve never been before.

Wear comfortable shoes and travel light

Wear shoes for the long haul rather than the first impression. There will be distances to cover and you might even find yourself dancing in the middle of a museum. 

And blisters are never a good partner with great art. Leave your skateboard and shopping trolley at home, they will just prove a nuisance when you are going through security checks.

Come early – or late – to avoid endless queues

Arriving at the Louvre at 8pm is always going to mean a giant queue. And nothing ruins a night quicker than spending most of it standing in an unmoving line. Try to escape peak times at the major museums – but check they’re not doing something interesting that you don’t want to miss – hip hop dance classes in the Department of Oriental Antiquities, in the Louvre’s Richelieu wing, for example…

Go somewhere you’ve never been to before

Do a lucky dip. Pick somewhere you’ve never heard of and know nothing about. What about the Musée de Valenciennes, which reopens after years of being closed to the public, for example. Its giving visitors the chance to see its fine art under ultraviolet light – which will reveal things you wouldn’t normally see.

Or you could delve deep into the Aude Departmental Archives, in Carcassonne, and discover the amazing life stories of some of the region’s historical figures

Make it social

Gather the troops, this is a night for multi-generations of family and friends. Art, history and culture, is very much a shared experience and you can usually find something that everyone loves – or hates.

Plan a pitstop

You will always need refreshing and wouldn’t a night of culture be wonderfully enhanced by a delicious picnic on the banks of the Seine, if you’re in Paris. 

Your mind will need a little pause from all the intellectual overload. Find a spot, listen to the music (there’s always music from somewhere) and watch the Bateaux Mouches go by as you eat a baguette with some good local cheese and some saucisson.

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