Pre-dressed salad and other social ills

Social ill is a bit harsh.  But it’s interesting going out for a meal in another country – particularly a European country, given the ongoing belief in the UK that we still eat worse than our European counterparts – and think you could have done better at home.

Targets on the list?  France is rather good at pre-dressed salad, as was Germany, back in the spring, and both were overly salty.  Top marks back to Italy, where you can generally dress your own salad at the table, although there’s still more of a tendency to add salt.

I still find salting a salad vegetable a bit strange, particularly when you could choose a tangier lettuce if you wanted more of a taste hit, but it still sits easier with me than adding cream to lettuce (my former flatmate in Poland.  It was just cream. I like a cream-y sauce on a salad from time to time, but not quite in this form).

Morning coffee in Italian hotels can be a bit of a disappointment – and this in a country which is really rather rated for its coffee.  Best trick is probably to forgo a hotel breakfast and get a quick breakfast in a nearby bar – which clearly works very well for the commuting population too, in many places.

We’re used to ‘serving suggestions’ on packaging, those kind of pictures that help you understand what to have on a plate with mayonnaise, for example.  France goes a step further, and suggests on its packets that you should actively have chocolate at breakfast time.

I know that many people need no encouragement in this area, but normally chocolate gets brought out later in the day…once something’s gone wrong…or you’re flagging at work?  Maybe we have completely the wrong attitude to chocolate – maybe our days would go much better if we had chocolate at breakfast time, and mustered the will to strike much earlier in the day.

I had an unexpected stop in a French hotel recently, and they offered the usual buffet breakfast option.  What was interesting was the paper serving mats on the table – like you get in fast food places here – only in France, it told you what elements you should be having to start the day.

There were 4 of them, and as far as I remember, you should have some protein, some carbohydrate, some fruit and something to drink to rehydrate you.  I’m sure chocolate was included in at least one of the categories as a serving suggestion…

Does this mean that the French are constantly thinking about how to balance their diets?  Is the placemat for visiting foreigners who need to shape up in this area – but need to be able to read French to do so?  Or is it a sign of a country also worried about its children going the way of the fast food chains?

Final food note: restaurants in Germany put rice in pots of table salt – I think this is to absorb any liquid which might get in, and cause the salt to dissolve, or clump, or something of that kind.  It makes lots of practical sense – but it doesn’t look quite as nice to look at.

Aesthetics eh?  You get them where you can.