France

Plats Interdits

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If you want to dine at Paris' Le Coin de Verre, you'd be wise to expect the dinner cops to join you for dessert: The menu at this restaurant in the largely North African neighborhood of Belleville is filled with forbidden food. No, there aren't any magic mushrooms or anything along those lines (that remains a Dutch specialty). This place features such morsels as beef on the bone, Corsican cheese, and little sausages known as andouillettes, all of which are quite well known to anyone who likes traditional French food (a group reputed to include much of the French populace), and all of which have been regulated off Europe's dinner tables in recent years by the European Union's zero-risk food rules.

According to Britain's Sunday Telegraph, Le Coin de Verre is at the forefront of "a culinary resistance movement" dedicated to flouting the E.U.'s food-safety regulations. Why bother? Because these dishes taste good, despite (or in some cases because of) the microbes and other ingredients that frighten regulators. As owner Hugues Calliger sensibly told the Telegraph, "Risky food should be marked and labeled. The people should be free to eat it if they choose."

This new French resistance continues a national tradition that has staked out territory where the state treads in vain. Although the French have embraced a high level of government involvement in the workplace and the school (indeed, they'll riot if the state threatens to pull out), they've refused to abide by most laws affecting personal pleasures. France has almost as many anti-smoking rules as the United States, for example, but no one obeys them. The Académie Française, which regulates the French language, impotently insists that such terms as le balladeur be used rather than le Walkman. The French famously regard American medical attitudes toward drinking (never mind cholesterol) as nonsense.

And now this. Someone should have warned the E.U. that it was the French who discovered the first lesson of revolution: If you want to make an omelet, you've got to break an egg.