Corrupting the French, un par un

When my son was still small, he was easy to thrill. A Pokemon card here, a sticker there. When it came to celebrating his good grades in kindergarten, I pulled out all the stops and announced that we were… going to McDonald’s for a happy meal!!!

I told him this when I went to pick him up from his Nounous’ house. Oh, he was thrilled as only a 6 year old can be. Going to eat fast food was actually a treat for him.

Now at Nanous’ house, they live and breath organic. This was not a new fad, this is how they lived off of their land for generations.

They have chickens, a large vegetable patch, fruit trees, nut trees AND a small vineyard. If Nanous decided that they were having soft boiled eggs, she would send him out to the chicken coop with a little basket. Want fries for lunch? Well, go help Papi dig up some potatoes. In May, he would spend a better part of his afternoons sitting in a cherry tree eating until his belly ached.

And the meals? Always three courses, bien sûr! An entrée, the main course and a dessert. All made by Nanous and 80% coming from their garden.

So my offering him fast food might have been a cheap trick, but he was still too young to realize I was pulling a fast one.

As he was jumping around her kitchen all excited, I translated to Nanous what I had offered him and suggested that she join us. Oh, at first she all well raised French people do..but when I insisted…and my son did too, she took her dishtowel off her shoulder and put it on the back of a kitchen chair.

She went into the living room to tell Papi she would be back in a bit and there was ham and cornichons in the frigo if he got hungry.

We waited for her while she freshened up in the bathroom. I was surprised that she had slipped on a dress. But ok, whatever. When we arrived at McDonald’s, Nanous did not get out of the car right away. She just sat there and observed the people coming out. Humoring her, we did not rush her. She said after a few minutes, “oh, they are wearing shorts!” This puzzled me because Nanous was the least judgemental person I know.

Anyway, we got out of the car and stepped into a busy McDonald’s. The familiar sounds and smells hit me like Proust’s madeline … While my son went happily to get a ballon, Nanous stayed close to me.

I asked her what she wanted and she asked me the same question right back. I said I would get a chicken sandwich and fries, she said she would get the same. Once we settled in at a table and sorted out the food, I was surprised at how Nanous commented everything. ” Oh, not bad..” “say, that is good.”

Until the dread hit me. “Nanous,” I asked slowly,” have you ever been to McDonald’s?”

“Oh, no” she answered as she happily took another bite of her sandwich.

“Oh no? Ohhhhhhhh no!” I was in a panic. What have I done! Did I just corrupt Nanous? The blundering American who went to the farthest reaches of the French countryside to find the last French person who had never eaten at McDonald’s…and seduced her to go there on a ruse to celebrate my son? What have I done? What have I done!

Poor Papi, no more three course meals for him! Will he join the millions who eat their dinner out of a paper bag because who wants to go through the hassle of growing your own food and then actually cooking???

I’m happy to report that I did not culturally ruin Nanous, she still cooks for Papi, and they do not eat out of brown paper bags.

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