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Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Credit Card Company Perpetuates French Food Myth

There's a new ad on television and the total premise rests on the misguided notion that fine (read French) dining means tiny portions and patrons leaving the restaurant hungry. The couple in this particular credit card ad looks down at their plates, look up at each other and then run out to a convenience store of all places to load up on a bunch of snack foods. Apparently, it’s just as easy to buy a bag of potato chips with your credit card as it is to pay for a $300 French dinner.

When I dine at a fancy French restaurant, such as Le Bec Fin in Philadelphia, I barely can sample the desserts that are wheeled out on a cart and included with the prix fixé meal in unlimited amounts. The appetizers and entrées at lunch, no less, are exquisitely prepared and presented dishes that taste like they were delivered direct from Paris.

True, you don't get a mountain of pasta or rice with a slab of beef or overcooked boneless chicken breast. Is our goal, though, to feel full from a distended stomach full of carbos? That isn't worth even the price tag at Friday's or McDonald’s for that matter. Why turn a special occasion into another day at the trough no different than any dinner you can prepare blindfolded at home? One goes out to eat, I hope, to enjoy a nice meal, service, atmosphere and company.

Of course, there is always the question of money. Yes, fine dining is an expensive endeavor. For those who can afford it, there is no excuse not to take advantage of it. For those who are a little less flush with cash, I have a few suggestions.

First of all, you can limit dining out so the fewer times you do dine out you can splurge more. Second, learn how to cook a few special meals. Staying at home to eat will become a more enticing option and learning how to cook will also make you a more discriminating restaurant patron. Knowledge is power. Finally, with a little research and word of mouth you can substitute fine for authentic and seek out small ethnic restaurants. You may sacrifice atmosphere and location, but many of the traditional dishes at these restaurants have become the foundation of so many other tony restaurants ‘downtown’.

I don’t begrudge the credit card companies trying to drum up business by getting you to use your plastic more. I just don’t think there is any need for them to perpetuate myths. We must eat for sustenance, but we also eat for pleasure. Discover the true pleasures of eating well and check all of your preconceived notions with your coat and start rediscovering great food.

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