Saturday, February 23, 2008

At the Salon de l'Agriculture

For Jacques Chirac, the annual Salon de l'Agriculture was always a highlight of the presidential year, an opportunity to pat rumps, part cowlips, caress muzzles, and mingle with the salt of the earth. Sarkozy, who never had a constituency to cultivate in Corrèze, is generally thought to be less fond of la crotte and le purin. But he did make an obligatory appearance at the Salon today and in his own way offered a paean to the world of agriculture: it was the basis, he said, of French gastronomic superiority: "We have the best gastronomy in the world," he asserted with characteristic pugnacity, and "we want it to be recognized as part of the world's patrimony." It was a clever way for the "bling-bling president" to domesticate the barnyard, as it were, and bring le boeuf, le porc, et la poule back to the more familiar turf of top-drawer Parisian eateries. It wasn't immediately clear whether the world's patrimony was to be enriched only by the highest refinements of French cuisine or to include such humbler offerings as Henri IV's poule au pot and Mama Sarkozy's boeuf au gros sel.

Of course French gastronomy has many challengers these days, and many foodies I know would be prepared to challenge the president's confident assertion of superiority. I had a dessert last night in a Cambridge hotel, for instance, that rivaled anything I've ever eaten under the benediction of Michelin's three stars--a blessing I may never again enjoy if the euro remains as high as it is. If Sarko wants the world to enjoy its patrimony, let him manage the economy so that those of us in the dollar zone are not priced out of the market and deprived of our heritage.


MCG said...

I visited the Salon de l'Agriculture a couple of years back, and I loved it. Part agricultural trade show, part travel exhibition, part cooking school, part county fair and livestock competition, part kindergarten-petting zoo. Something for everyone. And absolutely jammed. Why don't we have anything like it in New York City?

Anonymous said...

Poor President Sarkozy's idea only elicited laughter in my circles (it does have merit, although it might have more weight if France were to suggest a "cooking/cuisine/gastronomy" section of UNESCO inscribing this to humanity's heritage, rather than be reduced to a wish to be first honored. No doubt it'll be fleshed out soon.)
Rather than the announcement, what has focused interests is an anecdotal video where you see President Sarkozy arrive at the Salon. He shakes hands, pats people. An elderly gentleman tells him (in bad French) "Don't touch me" and the president says a rather rude equivalent of "buzz off", to which the elderly gentleman replies "you dirty me" and the president replies in kind, insult included.
if, like me, you don't believe it. Even at the UMP we're starting to hear 'if he could just stop talking'.)
The Salon has had two main effects, none too good in my opinion: everybody's been 'regretting Chirac' and commenting the video, rather than the announcement of the day.
Our President is making it hard for us to be on the Right in France nowadays.

Avistew said...

So that's why there were so many gendarmes there? I was really wondering what was going on when I walked by it today.

I've been there a few years ago, with my art class. It was pretty nice, and all the people are more than happy to let you draw their animals. Some students even sold some of their work.

I love French food, but I love food from everywhere. Let's not be stupidely arrogant, and eat food from everywhere rather than limit ourselves to French food because we idealise it.

lisa said...

I read that 73% of farmers had voted for Sarkozy in last year's election, and while only 51% of the French public supported Sarkozy in January, 77% of the rural population still had faith in the French president. I wonder whether they'll be sympathetic to the "casse-toi" remark...

MCG said...

I've seen news clips of Chirac patting a cow familiarly while he and the farmer-owner have an extended cow-centered chat. I sympathize with the very urban M. Sarkozy's quest to find a more urbane link to the Salon. It's not French gastronomy?

MY said...

Guy Birenbaum contends that the 'incident's' issue is going to be refocused on the private v. public distinction along with the role of web-based media.

Closer to your point, as a response to the presidential announcement, Italy claims that it should be the first to see its cooking recognized as part of the world's patrimony.

Arthur Goldhammer said...

Interesting. I just saw Raffarin on Le Grand Rendez-vous d'Europe1 saying that he would not comment on "the incident" because it was a question of private life, not a public pronouncement. He called it un échange assez viril d'homme à homme, mais strictement du domaine privé.

MY said...

(I am not sure how to address you - Art, Arthur, Sir, Professor..?)
Thank you for this extra information.
Did Raffarin explain how it was "strictement du domaine privé"?
Because it clearly was in a public place and with many cameras in sight. Are all non-official pronouncements considered "private" in French law (and as such are the only presidential words allowed for broadcast without breaching privacy laws) or is it Raffarin's interpretation of the law? Have all other non-official pronouncements been broadcast in an in-between space (not legal/not forbidden/accepted)?
What is striking is that le Parisien is a legitimate newssource for which the film has been professionally shot and cut.
I found this article interesting also:

Arthur Goldhammer said...

Please call me Art. Thanks for the link. I agree with the blogger that Sarko seems totally oblivious of the YouTube/DailyMotion phenomenon. The Salon clip has been viewed 650,000 times on the Parisien site and who knows how many times elsewhere on the net. As for Raffarin's remark, I think he was using the idea of "private domain" as a convenient pretext for avoiding comment on the subject. He did not want to be lured into saying that Caesar should be above reproach in his public comportment, so he simply reclassified the behavior as private and therefore out of bounds for comment. I do not think that the threat to regulate posting of this sort of clip will go very far.

MY said...

Thank you for your answer.
In addition to the privacy issue, there's also a little discussion about broadcast rights:

face B said...

cultural patrimony for gastronomy,
in my opinion,
italian gastronomy may compete
indian and chinese too,
who, what else?

Anonymous said...

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