Wednesday, 27 August 2008

Les Blooze

So, the French are cultivating their own binge-drinking problem, are they? And Nicholas Sarkozy is their president now? Coincidence, non?

Come to think of it, the cosy myth held by the British middle classes that the inhabitants of southern European countries are much 'better' drinkers than us shivering Celts, Angles, Vikings and Teutons overlooks several factors:

1 - You're more likely to see a French family drinking sensibly with a meal if your primary point of encounter with French families is in family restaurants.

2 - The French, Italians and Spanish make vast quantities of 'transcendent' wine and, now I come to think of it, some pretty fine beer as well. One suspects that they don't merely do this to feed the appetites of the English and Germans.

3 - Walk down a street in any large French town after seven in the evening. You will see drunk people.

It seems to me to be true that the culture of drinking is different over there - no 'six shots for a pound' style offers, fewer huge gangs of lads spending all weekend between the bar and the toilet cubicles (though I have noticed this a few times in Spain) - but that doesn't mean that Europeans don't get drunk, or that they only let themselves go a bit in idyllic mealtime settings with with their entire family in an olive grove.

Oh, I've just remembered. What about all the binge-drinking scenes in Emile Zola's novels?


Ernesto Priego said...

Yeah, it's true. There's "binge-drinking" everywhere. And yet... I've never in my life have seen so much drinking as in the UK. The thing is, as you point out, unlike in say, France or Spain, over here (I'm writing from London) people rarely eat and drink. I've hosted parties "Mexican style" with lots of nibbles and food and the crowd just drinks and drinks and only notices the food until they are too drunk to enjoy it...

In Mexican cantinas you get at least free peanuts or sometimes olives or pickled stuff. But here, none of that. It's a drinking culture where food is secondary. I read a CAMRA article saying how people still have to be taught that real ale can be had with food... I found that hilarious, but true.

Ernesto Priego said...

(And eating out and pub grub is so expensive that I rarely eat when I drink in a pub- can't afford it!)

Joe said...

There's not much nicer than a pint of Black Sheep (from round my way) next to a Welsh Rarebit.

As for food at parties - because our flat is so small, we only ever have small groups of people round at a time. Because I'm always so hungry by the time people arrive, there's rarely time for them to get near the food!

I have to say, though, that I'm with my stepdad on this one. There are certain pubs that are spoilt by doing food because A) they can't do food properly and B) food ends up getting prioritised over the people who just want to meet for a chat after work before going home. That's the kind of place that really needs to be contented with a few pork pies and some pickled onions!