November 3, 2015

100% of French People Will Probably Have Cancer

[NDLR: Le dernier post en français se trouve ici; un nouveau est prévu pour jeudi.]
Three generations break into some jambon persillé

It is a shocking headline, isn't it? But, on the heels of the WHO's findings released recently, I don't see how it is possible that every single French person isn't just a walking cancer case. Here: "For processed meat, researchers found “sufficient” and “convincing” evidence that it causes cancer.” The agency estimates that every 50-gram portion of processed meat eaten daily increases the risk of cancer by about 18 percent." 

Let the WHO define processed meat for us: "Processed meat refers to meat that has been salted, cured, fermented, smoked, or undergone other processes to enhance flavor or to improve preservation, according to the WHO. Most processed meats contain pork or beef, but processed meats can also contain other poultry, offal, meat byproducts such as blood, or other red meats. Examples of processed meat include: Hot dogs, ham, sausage, corned beef, beef jerky, canned meat, and meat-based sauces and preparations."

Now, I have been living in France for two years and the average diet, in my unscientific observations, includes approximately 1,000,000,000,000 grams of processed meat per year.

Pork three ways: liver, tongue, and heart
Guess what rabbit livers are used for...
Let's just think about how prominently processed meats figure in life solely in Burgundy, leaving the other regions of the country aside for the moment. The regional appetizer par excellence is indisputably jambon persillé, which is practically given away at every restaurant, community gathering, and each time a cluster of more than one person assembles spontaneously. Merguez and chipolatas, the two most popular sausages in the land, each weigh about 55 grams per link, and are consumed two at a time, with great regularity. No self-respecting Burgundian -- or French person, for that matter -- would dare have an apéritif without some sliced saucisson. Markets, both super and local, offer an abundance of pâté (loads o' liver in those, my friends), tête de veau (some awful offal, but I digress), boudin noir, or blood sausage, and pavé du Morvan, or -- wait for it -- processed sausages from the area. Lardons, the little sinful nibs of bacon, are tossed into salads, used to garnish soups, and make every omelette the definition of perfection. Indeed, these last are critical ingredients in the most famous dishes of the region: boeuf bourguignon, oeufs en meurette, and coq au vin...which naturally includes rooster blood.
Cast the net farther afield and it is a miracle Alsace has any living inhabitants. Choucroute garnie, the regional dish of choice, contains two or three types of sausages, fresh and smoked bacon, and other variable ingredients, like goose fat or ham rind. In Lorraine, the eponymous quiche is a fluffy delicacy spectacularly studded with lardons. In the Basque region, it's a walking grave for all the folks devouring jambon de Bayonne. In the southwest, foie gras may as well be oxygen. Though glasses in the area may be full of bubbly, the good people of Champagne are simply eating death in disguise, a.ka. the andouillette de Troyes, a sausage made with, well, pigs' intestines and stomach. The famous buckwheat crêpes of Brittany aren't famous by themselves; they are famous when they are served as a complète, or a complete, which means with ham and cheese. In every mountainous region, smoked pork will work its way into an endless variety of dishes: tartiflette, raclette, or a potée, which calls for three different smoked meats. 
Do I expect a radical change in the dietary habits of French people in the wake of this damning and convincing news? 

I do not.

Asking French people to cut these products out of their diet is like asking them to cut off a toe or to stop wearing scarves. Life without these delicacies is a rainbow without color, wine without swallowing, laughter without noise. And the reaction has been swift and unanimous. The study was conducted by "imbeciles." As long as we embrace moderation, everything will be fine. Or, the best, "when my father was sick, the doctor recommended liver and raw meat to cure what ailed him. He didn't die from that!" It seems, just like in so many other instances, France is more than ready to ignore the latest breaking news from the modern world and soldier on, content in the knowledge of several centuries of eating and the art de vivre. Happily, as the hashtag #JeSuisBacon suggests back home, they will find some brothers in arms in the United States...hopefully all of us cancer-free.

No comments:

Post a Comment