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How Georgette the giant French oyster escaped the dinner table

Oyster farmers in western France have sacrificed a seafood feast and put a mega-mollusc weighing 1.44kg back in the water after naming it "Georgette" in honour of a retiring worker.

How Georgette the giant French oyster escaped the dinner table
Photo: AFP/ Viviers de la Guittière

The 25cm long oyster was discovered at Talmont-Saint-Hilaire in the Vendee department last Friday.

“I was working in the channel and walking along I felt something with my foot,” said Mathieu Naslin, an employee of the Viviers de la Guittière oyster farm.

READ ALSO How a noisy cockerel exposed France's rural and urban divide

“I picked it up and it was a huge oyster,” he told AFP.

Another mammoth oyster was found at a farm close by in the Sables d'Olonne area in April, weighing in at 1.3kg.

“It's extremely rare,” said Naslin, adding that he had never seen anything like it during eight years in the job.

“No doubt there are more oysters this big out at sea but in the farms you do not expect this.

“The salinity level occasionally drops a lot because we are next to a lake that puts water into our channel. That restricts the growth of the oysters.”

The oyster, which has since been returned to the Atlantic waters, was nicknamed “Georgette” after one of the workers who recently retired.

“She was a sort of matriarch at the company,” Naslin explained.

The team has estimated Georgette was 13-15 years old taking into account that a commercial oyster normally grows about three centimetres a year and stays in the water for three years.

“Nonetheless it has been shown from the growth of the shells that an oyster can live for between 35 and 65 years,” he said.

Georgette is edible but the farm has no intention of selling it.

“There are people who go for very big oysters, but we want to keep it alive and why not keep it growing? It's like a trophy,” Naslin said.

“Quite a few people have offered to buy it.

“As a joke, the boss told us he would not let it go for under €2,000.

“But we would not sell it, even for €30,000.”

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LANGUAGE AND CULTURE

Snobs, beaches and drunks – 5 things this joke map teaches us about France

A popular joke 'map' of France has once again been widely shared on social media, sparking endless jokes at the expense of certain regions of France.

Snobs, beaches and drunks - 5 things this joke map teaches us about France
Image AFP/cartesfrance.fr
But while the map – created by cartesfrance.fr – is clearly intended to be comic, it teaches us some important points about France’s regional divides, local stereotypes and in-jokes.
 

 
 
 
Here are some of the key points.
 
1. Everyone hates Parisians
 
The map is purportedly France as seen through the eyes of Parisians, and contains a series of snobbish and rude generalisations about every part of France that is not maison (home) in the capital and its surroundings. The great majority of the country is labelled simply as paysans (peasants).
 
The general stereotype about Parisians is that they are snobs, rudely judging the rest of the country which they regard as backwards and full of ploucs (yokels) apart from small areas which make nice holiday destinations.
 
Like all sweeping generalisations, this is true of some people and very much not of others, but one of the few things that can unite people from all areas of France is how much they hate les parigots têtes de veaux (a colloquialism that very roughly translates as ‘asshole Parisians’)
 
 
2. Staycations rule
 
Even before Covid-related travel restrictions, holidaying within France was the norm for many French people.
 
As the map shows, Parisians regard the southern and western coastlines as simply plages (beaches) which they decamp to for at least a month in July or August. In the height of summer French cities tend to empty out (apart from tourists) as locals head to the seaside or the countryside.
 
 
In winter the Pyrenees and Alps are popular ski destinations.
 
3. Northerners like a drink
 
There is a very widespread stereotype, although not really backed up by evidence, that the people of Normandy, Brittany and the Nord area like a drink or two. Many suggest this is to cope with the weather, which does tend to be rainier than the rest of France (although has plenty of sunshine too).
 
 
Official health data doesn’t really back this up, as none of these areas show a significantly greater than average rate of daily drinkers, although Nord does hold the sad record for the highest rate of people dying from alcohol-related liver disease.
 
What’s certainly true is that Brittany and Normandy are cider country, with delicious locally-produced ciders on sale everywhere, well worth a try if you are visiting.
 
 
4. Poverty
 
The map labels the north eastern corner of France as simply pauvres – the poor.
 
The north east of the country was once France’s industrial and coal-mining heartland, and as traditional industries have declined there are indeed pockets of extreme poverty and high unemployment. The novel The End of Eddy, telling the story of novelist Edouard Louis’ childhood in a struggling small town near Amiens, lays out the social problems of such areas in stark detail.
 
However poverty is not just confined to one corner of France and the département that records the highest levels of deprivation is actually Seine-Saint-Denis in the Paris suburbs.
 
5. Southern prejudice
 
According to the map, those from the south are either branleurs (slackers) or menteurs (liars). 
 
This isn’t true, obviously, there are many lovely, hard-working and truthful people in southern France, but the persistent stereotype is that they are lazy – maybe because it’s too hot to do much work – and slightly shifty.
 
Even people who aren’t actually rude about southerners can be pretty patronising, as shown when south west native Jean Castex became the prime minister in summer 2020. 
 
Castex has a noticeable south west accent which sparked much comment from the Paris-based media and political classes, with comments ranging from the patronising – “I love his accent, I feel like I’m on holiday” – to the very patronising – “that accent is a bit rugby” (a reference to the fact that TV rugby commentators often come from France’s rugby heartlands in the south west).
 
 
In his first year as PM, Castex has undertaken a dizzying schedule of appointments around the four corners of France, so hopefully the lazy myth can now be put to bed.
 
And anyone tempted to take the piss out of his accent – glottophobie (accent prejudice) is now a crime in France.
 
For more maps that reflect France, head to cartesfrance.fr
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