Society

Restaurant, Mon Amour: A French Reflection On Lockdown Choices

By closing bars and restaurants, we are not only depriving the sharing of meals but also the real exchange of ideas.

People having a meal around a table.
Jacques Attali

-Essay-

PARIS — Everywhere in the world, but perhaps especially in France, pandemic management has been characterized by its inconsistencies. How can we justify closing theaters and cinemas when metros and trains are still running? How can we explain why universities are shut when primary schools are still open? And how can we accept that grocery stores are closed at the 7 p.m. curfew, which, for most people is the only time they can do their shopping? One day, all these questions will need to be answered.

An even greater incoherence now affects restaurants: Why is it that we are allowed to eat in our seats on a crowded train, and yet they cannot be opened? Why are they not even allowed to serve customers on the sidewalks or terraces, with all the necessary space-heaters (whose impact on climate change, admittedly, is certain yet minuscule)? At a dining table, we would be spaced just as far apart as we are spaced in our offices, and wearing masks could be compulsory outside the times when people eat. In restaurant kitchens, couldn't we apply the same rules as those canteens that still offer takeaway? With some practice, it could work.

Why is it that we are allowed to eat in our seats on a crowded train, and yet restaurants cannot be opened?

At this point, it's likely too late to change. But if this pandemic should return, or become as regular as the yearly flu, we must put such measures into consideration.

And perhaps, those in power are delighted with this situation. Restaurants are not only a place for food consumption. They are the main way that conversations take place. However, those in charge do not like when people talk while eating: They exchange information; they discuss politics; they organize coalitions, all without government control nor knowledge that it even takes place.

Moreover, shared meals take time — time away from work, time away from shopping. Therefore, the shared meal goes against the ideals of capitalism. It has become, because of this, a brief and solitary moment away from consuming the enemy of man: industrial food products, which kill more than the worst of the pandemics.

paris_bars_coronavirus

A Paris café in October, before bars and bistros shut down over COVID-19 restrictions. — Photo:​ Adnan Farzat

Those in charge don't like the transmission of knowledge from one generation to the next either. They prefer to transmit it themselves. In particular, they do not like the transmission of family recipes, unique and endemic.

For at least the last century and a half, our societies have tried everything to kill meals. We can eat elsewhere, to-go, take-out, in front of the television, at our desk: anywhere, but not together.

We digest these industrial products with artificial flavors, thus dissuading us from really taking the time to savor the taste. Food has become universally uniform, maintaining the illusion that journeys in foods are exotic only by name. And by locking up the elders in nursing homes, we also make it even more difficult to pass on old recipes.

We must restore the meal's subversive function.

If we are careful, the pandemic could accelerate this evolution, even in the most resistant of countries. The pandemic tries to justify the curfew, making it possible only to grocery shop at the time of the forgotten meal, making up for lost productivity by eating a meal while working in front of one's computer or office or even bedroom.

We must fight to deter this deadly trend at all costs. As restaurant owners, farmers and others in the food industry, we must restore the meal's festive and subversive functions, and prepare for healthy changes as soon as possible. This means eliminating artificial sugar, banning pesticides and moving toward organic food. We must share this knowledge with health professionals, and allow our elders to pass down their treasured recipes that are at risk of disappearing.

To re-establish the meal in all its glory, to eat what is not only good but also healthy, and to converse freely and joyfully, is to transmit the essence of our civilizations.

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Over the past week thousands of migrants have arrived at the international bridge in Del Rio, Texas, on the border between Mexico and the United States. According to Del Rio's mayor, border patrol agents are struggling to process new arrivals, with about 4,000 migrants currently waiting.

Hannah Steinkopf-Frank, Bertrand Hauger and Anne-Sophie Goninet

👋 Сайн уу*

Welcome to Friday, where the new U.S.-UK-Australia security pact is under fire, Italy becomes the first country to make COVID-19 "green pass" mandatory for all workers, and Prince Philip's will is to be kept secret for 90 years. From Russia, we also look at the government censorship faced by brands that recently tried to promote multiculturalism and inclusiveness in their ads.

[*Sain uu - Mongolian]

💡  SPOTLIGHT

Australia's submarine slap to France exposes brutal truth about Europe

The military pact announced yesterday between Australia, the United States and the United Kingdom is further proof that Europe's influence is eroding. To make up for the absence of a collective defense from the bloc's 27, it is urgent to establish alliances with different countries, writes Lucie Robequain in French business daily Les Echos.

The slap that Australia, along with the United States and the United Kingdom, has just inflicted on us is a reminder of some disturbing truths — which happen to be opposed to the values we cherish. First of all, it reminds us that in international relations, friends don't exist. There are just allies who share common interests. Europeans have long lived with the illusion that the United States, a brotherly country, would only want the best for us and that Joe Biden had a special bond with the land of his ancestors.

The fact that President Biden convinced Canberra to break its commitments with France's Naval Group shows his determination to follow only one course: that of Washington's economic and commercial interests. From this point of view, Biden's actions are much more damaging than Donald Trump's, because they are more thoughtful and effective. This is actually the second time since the beginning of the summer that the French defense has been snubbed: last June, Americans had managed to impose their fighter planes on Switzerland, to the detriment of France's Rafale.

The Australian fiasco teaches us something else: our allies are less scrupulous than us in transferring their technologies. France has always refrained from exporting its nuclear-powered ships, because it sees them as the key to its independence and expertise. By agreeing to share theirs with the Australians, the Americans are breaking a major taboo.

History provides only one precedent, when Washington had offered its atomic expertise to the British. It was 1958, at the height of the Cold War — which says a lot about the anti-China front that is building up today. Will the American-Australian cooperation encourage other countries to develop their nuclear, civilian or military arsenals? Many fear so.

What's most cruel about this whole affair is to realize how much Europe's influence is eroding. Our hesitation vis-à-vis China is pushing the United States to forge alliances elsewhere, and without us. At the same time, they give Boris Johnson a great opportunity to achieve his ambitions to create a "Global Britain."

By contrast, Europe doesn't give any real weight to the common defense it calls for. The resistance of many countries, especially Poland, should push us to establish mini-alliances, as the United States is doing right now. We can only hope that the German election next week will choose a more proactive chancellor than Angela Merkel to actively support this strategic autonomy.

Lucie Robequain / Les Echos

🌎  7 THINGS TO KNOW RIGHT NOW

• U.S. facing multiple waves of migrants, refugees: The temporary camp, located between Mexico's Ciudad Acuña and Del Rio in Texas, is housing some 10,000 people, largely from Haiti. With few resources, they are forced to wait in squalid conditions and scorching temperatures amidst a surge of migrants attempting to cross into the U.S. Meanwhile, thousands of recently evacuated Afghan refugees wait in limbo at U.S. military bases, both domestic and abroad.

• COVID update: Italy is now the first European country to require vaccination for all public and private sector workers from Oct. 15. The Netherlands will also implement a "corona pass" in the following weeks for restaurants, bars and cultural spaces. When he gives an opening speech at the United Nations General Assembly next week, unvaccinated Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro will defy New York City authorities, who are requiring jabs for all leaders and diplomats.

• U.S. and UK face global backlash over Australian deal: The U.S. is attempting to diffuse the backlash over the new security pact signed with Australia and the UK, which excludes the European Union. The move has angered France, prompting diplomats to cancel a gala to celebrate ties between the country and the U.S.

• Russian elections: Half of the 450 seats in Duma are will be determined in today's parliamentary race. Despite persistent protests led by imprisoned opposition leader Alexey Navalny, many international monitors and Western governments fear rigged voting will result in President Vladimir Putin's United Russia party maintaining its large majority.

• Somali president halts prime minister's authority: The decision by President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed marks the latest escalation in tensions with Prime Minister Mohamed Hussein Roble concerning a murder investigation. The move comes as the Horn of Africa country has fallen into a political crisis driven by militant violence and clashes between clans.

• Astronauts return to Earth after China's longest space mission: Three astronauts spent 90 days at the Tianhe module and arrived safely in the Gobi desert in Inner Mongolia. The Shenzhou-12 mission is the first of crewed missions China has planned for 2021-2022 as it completes its first permanent space station.

• Prince Philip's will to be kept secret for 90 years: A British court has ruled that the will of Prince Philip, the late husband of Britain's Queen Elizabeth who passed away in April at 99 years old, will remain private for at least 90 years to preserve the monarch's "dignity and standing."

🗞️  FRONT PAGE

With a memorable front-page photo, Argentine daily La Voz reports on the open fight between the country's president Alberto Fernández and vice-president Cristina Kirchner which is paralyzing the government. Kirchner published a letter criticizing the president's administration after several ministers resigned and the government suffered a major defeat in last week's midterm primary election.

#️⃣  BY THE NUMBERS

€150

An Italian investigation uncovered a series of offers on encrypted "dark web" websites offering to sell fake EU COVID vaccine travel documents. Italy's financial police say its units have seized control of 10 channels on the messaging service Telegram linked to anonymous accounts that were offering the vaccine certificates for up to €150. "Through the internet and through these channels, you can sell things everywhere in the world," finance police officer Gianluca Berruti told Euronews.

📰  STORY OF THE DAY

In Russia, brands advertising diversity are under attack

Russian sushi delivery Yobidoyobi removed an advertisement with a Black man and apologized for offending the Russian nation, while a grocery chain was attacked for featuring an LGBTQ couple, reports Moscow-based daily Kommersant.

❌ "On behalf of the entire company, we want to apologize for offending the public with our photos..." reads a recent statement by Russian sushi delivery Yobidoyobi after publishing an advertisement that included a photograph of a Black man. Shortly after, the company's co-founder, Konstantin Zimen, said people on social media were accusing Yobidoyobi of promoting multiculturalism. Another recent case involved grocery store chain VkusVill, which released advertising material featuring a lesbian couple. The company soon began to receive threats and quickly apologized and removed the text and apologized.

🏳️🌈 For the real life family featured in the ad, they have taken refuge in Spain, after their emails and cell phone numbers were leaked. "We were happy to express ourselves as a family because LGBTQ people are often alone and abandoned by their families in Russia," Mila, one of the daughters in the ad, explained in a recent interview with El Pais.

🇷🇺 It is already common in Russia to talk about "spiritual bonds," a common designation for the spiritual foundations that unite modern Russian society, harkening back to the Old Empire as the last Orthodox frontier. The expression has been mocked as an internet meme and is widely used in public rhetoric. For opponents, this meme is a reason for irony and ridicule. Patriots take spiritual bonds very seriously: The government has decided to focus on strengthening these links and the mission has become more important than protecting basic human rights.Russian sushi delivery Yobidoyobi removed an advertisement with a Black man and apologized for offending the Russian nation, while a grocery chain was attacked for featuring an LGBTQ couple, reports Moscow-based daily Kommersant.

❌ "On behalf of the entire company, we want to apologize for offending the public with our photos..." reads a recent statement by Russian sushi delivery Yobidoyobi after publishing an advertisement that included a photograph of a Black man. Shortly after, the company's co-founder, Konstantin Zimen, said people on social media were accusing Yobidoyobi of promoting multiculturalism. Another recent case involved grocery store chain VkusVill, which released advertising material featuring a lesbian couple. The company soon began to receive threats and quickly apologized and removed the text and apologized.

🏳️🌈 For the real life family featured in the ad, they have taken refuge in Spain, after their emails and cell phone numbers were leaked. "We were happy to express ourselves as a family because LGBTQ people are often alone and abandoned by their families in Russia," Mila, one of the daughters in the ad, explained in a recent interview with El Pais.

🇷🇺 It is already common in Russia to talk about "spiritual bonds," a common designation for the spiritual foundations that unite modern Russian society, harkening back to the Old Empire as the last Orthodox frontier. The expression has been mocked as an internet meme and is widely used in public rhetoric. For opponents, this meme is a reason for irony and ridicule. Patriots take spiritual bonds very seriously: The government has decided to focus on strengthening these links and the mission has become more important than protecting basic human rights.

➡️ Read more on Worldcrunch.com

📣 VERBATIM

"Ask the rich countries: Where are Africa's vaccines?"

— During an online conference, Dr. Ayoade Olatunbosun-Alakija, of the African Vaccine Delivery Alliance, implored the international community to do more to inoculate people against COVID-19 in Africa and other developing regions. The World Health Organization estimates that only 3.6% of people living in Africa have been fully vaccinated. The continent is home to 17% of the world population, but only 2% of the nearly six billion shots administered so far have been given in Africa, according to the W.H.O.

📸  PHOTO DU JOUR

Over the past week thousands of migrants have arrived at the international bridge in Del Rio, Texas, on the border between Mexico and the United States. According to Del Rio's mayor, border patrol agents are struggling to process new arrivals, with about 4,000 migrants currently waiting. — Photo: William Luther/San Antonio Express-News/ZUMA

✍️ Newsletter by Hannah Steinkopf-Frank, Bertrand Hauger and Anne-Sophie Goninet

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We are grateful for reader support to continue our unique mission of delivering in English the best international journalism, regardless of language or geography. Click here to contribute whatever you can. Merci!
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