The golf has started and I am observing the eating habits of my colleagues from the comfort of my porter cabin. Following a storm of biblical proportions, the temperature has dropped and we have exchanged air con for two bar heaters. I was wrongly advised by the Apple weather app so am dressed in my default lesbian geography teacher uniform; white socks and shorts which used to be baggy but now are not.
At most events regardless of the sport or art, us foot soldiers clock up around 15 - 20,000 steps a day, you would think therefore we stand to lose a few pounds during the week n'est pas?
Mais non, like all UK events or exported events, one is witness to mountains of sugar and starch piled up in every office and meeting room across the site. Its as if we are preparing for nuclear war, in our windowless cabins we have squirrelled away enough sugar and starch to nourish the army until the end of the year, and more is arriving all the time! The foot soldiers can't eat it fast enough, we have had to assign an 'SSS' porter cabin just to house the Surplus Sugar and Starch!
You may say, but those poor foot soldiers need calories for they are marching up and down all day. And yes you are right but they are well provided for, with three copious turgid meals a day.
Breakfast is the classic English delicacy, a bacon bap - the French look on in bewilderment peering from behind their expressos and croissants with a mixture of curiosity and disgust as the British foot soldiers stand and tear into this all essential export, squirting ketchup and other gunk in the middle of the office. Very un-French and uncouth.
Lunch is a buffet, the French go for small plates and carefully dress them with small quantities, presentation is key. The typical frog takes 3 turns around the buffet. One, to scope out the offering and select an entree. Two, to pick up something a little more substantial but still using the small plates and small portions. Three, to chose a desert likely to be a yoghurt or fruit. An expresso signals the end of le dejuener. The objective - to enjoy a well-balanced meal that leaves them satiated not stuffed.
The Brits go straight in and pile as much food as they can on a big plate without it falling off. And if it falls off they scrap it back on top and tip top carefully to their seats. Little would you know they have had 2000 calories of sweets that morning. No one talks, the foot soldiers hoover up what is in front of them, this takes a number of minutes and they are off to get a mountainous helping of dessert, still silence and then they flee. The whole of lunch taking them 5 minutes, whilst the French are still on their first turn...
Dinner repeats the same pattern as lunch, the Brits silently shovel stodge into their stomachs, the French take their time and enjoy three courses whilst managing to multi-task; dine and talk.
Maybe by looking at the differences in the use of language between the UK and France we stand a chance of understanding the cultural differences surrounding attitudes to 'la table'.
I am aghast by English phrases such as 'going for a feed' - feed? Cows feed, horses feed, pigs feed, humans don't just eat to live they live to eat! So can we try and find a different verb to describe this pleasant social activity to distinguish ourselves from four-legged mammals?
In fact, the word 'food' or 'alimentation' (French for food) is rarely used in France except for corner shops. The French go to great lengths to find other ways of referring to eating. For example, they would never say in polite company, are you going to eat/ tu vas manger? Non non, they would say.. tu vas dejuener?/Are you going to lunch? On va diner/ we are going to dine. On va grignoter un petit peu/ we are going to nibble a little...
After a week of watching the cultural nutritional differences between the British and French foot soldiers, it is clear that the French are swimming in their shorts whereas the Brits have started to undo a button or two. British foot soldier please try to enjoy the pastime of 'la table' and treat it as a social occasion rather than a feeding process at a trough...