This should have been breaking news. For the first time, after years of close battle, it was revealed that the sales of burgers just overpassed those of classic French ham&butter sandwiches, by 1.4 billion units. Who would have imagined that? To date, already 85% French restaurants serve burgers … This could be a first piece of explanation ; French ham&butter sandwiches are not usually served at the table. An opportunity by the way for all wannabe chefs in quest for buzz…
First of all, sandwiches and burgers are two symbols, two ways to satisfy a will to eat quickly, and the confirmation that French consumers are not ready to completely give-up calories. The salad bowl is not about to become their favorite dish… It also sums-up what France is today and how is it evolving. Indeed, if burgers and ham&butter sandwiches are similar in terms of ‘identity’ (two pieces of bread with meat and some kind of binder) and ‘intention’ (to allow mobility), each of them reflects its time in its own way.
Yesterday’s sandwich made with white ‘baguette’. Today’s burger made with special multigrain bread. The latter probably perceived as healthier than it actually is, and surely more appreciated for its appearance. Yesterday’s sandwich was combining a layer of ham with a layer of butter. Today’s burger is made of a beef patty personalized with a sauce, that sometimes claims to be regionally inspired or produced. In other words, a demand for local food and self-expression through more choice. ‘Ennobled’ by the origin of its ingredients and the richness of its potential combinations, it comes as no surprise that burgers have successfully arrived on restaurant tables, progressively replacing the other-very-classic French steak & chips. Proof that the burger is now part of French culture too.
Proof also that the success of burgers is not anchored into the triumph of the American hegemony, as some may believe, but, on the contrary, in the ability of French cooks to make the recipes coming from other countries their own. The ‘made in France’ burger has nothing to do with its American counterpart. It is sophisticated, civilized, urbanized, and confirms the richness of our food culture. What could an American ham&butter sandwich taste like?