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August 14, 2005

The French, The British and Alcohol.

Lots of people saying that we all have to become more French in our drinking habits, to stop this Anglo Saxon habit of getting legless. One example:

There is only one solution for you: learn how to drink like the French, as judge Charles Harris called for on the Today programme last Tuesday when he said: 'Continental-style drinking requires continental-style people.' The venerable man seemed to believe that this would be the nation's salvation.

'But why should we want to be more like the French when it comes to drinking?' you might ask. Maybe because while the French drink much more than Britons, it hardly ever shows.

Unlike the British, even intoxicated French don't roll under tables, slurp at parties, vomit in the streets, show their breasts or buttocks to passersby, brawl with strangers, wake up in the morning in unknown bedrooms with unknown people.

The secret is not how much you drink but how, what, why and with whom you drink.

How to drink. Seated, eating, talking. Not standing up, nibbling crisps (if anything) and throwing pints down your neck as if your life depended on it.

In essence, that famed cafe society. Umm Hmm. So we have two options.

1) Jean Paul Sartre. Cafe drinker. Philosopher. Apologist for Stalin.

2) The Anglo Saxon drinker. Legless, vomiting, habitue at A&E.

Which of the two is more innocently employed?

August 14, 2005 in Food and Drink | Permalink


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Jean-Paul Sartre was also a speed freak who needed amphetamines to help him write*. The world would indeed have been better place had he stuck to snakebite and Bacardi breezers on a Friday night.

*(I'm not sure which drugs would be powerful enough to get me through reading "Being and Nothingness" from cover to cover).

Posted by: J.Cassian | Aug 14, 2005 10:05:51 AM

I actually think sitting and eating as well is the key difference. I don't think we'll ever turn into the French, but something more like tapas, and less like crisps and flash-microwaved gunk, might be sensible.

This just came into my head: so it's very likely complete nonsense. But if there were one licencing distinction I'd like to see it would be between food prepared from raw ingredients on the premises and the reheated crap so many pubs call meals. Preferably with some kind of penalty (as in more expensive licence for the latter). Also pubs aimed at youth discourage talking (which slows down drinking) with loud music. Could me as at least agnostic on this; liberalisation is a good thing, but I'm not really a fan of British habits -- in our city centres anyway.

Posted by: Backword Dave | Aug 14, 2005 11:26:50 AM

As far as I am concerned the average Anglo-Saxon drinker seems to be an apologist for Hitler. Especially his race views.

Give me Sartre any day.

Posted by: auntymarianne | Aug 14, 2005 11:36:20 AM

Sartre 'pah' De cart before the horse 'perhaps' "I drink therefor I fall over"

Posted by: Anoneumouse | Aug 14, 2005 11:50:53 AM

First off, I know french people who have done all those things. Second, oh, we really want to drink like the french? The last western country that thinks it's ok to drink and drive? Hmmm....

I'm with Dave on the food thing, I think that's the key, but look at North Carolina where licensed premises can only serve alcohol if they are either a membership-only club or a place that serves food. So the bars have to serve food (generally cheese fries...) or take your social security number. And people still get blutered and vomit. Not really a solution.

Posted by: Katie Bartleby | Aug 14, 2005 1:15:58 PM

What exactly is wrong with the Anglo Saxon way? It has made us the dominant race in the world at the moment.

Maybe if the French learned to drink like the Anglo's, they might be able to avoid talking such complete and utter nonsense all the time.

Tim adds: What? Drinking properly (ie like an Anglo) stops you speaking French? Worth a try I suppose.

Posted by: Nik | Aug 14, 2005 1:33:14 PM

It would seem that the French (who, when they aren't forbidden by law from working, are on strike) have plenty of time to sit around all day and drink.

While the Brits are out there spending their time making money and have to get all their drinking in quickly.

Posted by: Agammamon | Aug 14, 2005 5:59:04 PM

And what is so wrong about waking up in the morning in unknown bedrooms with unknown people? Isn't that what University is all about?

Posted by: Tim Newman | Aug 14, 2005 6:59:49 PM

How to drink. Seated, eating, talking. Not standing up...

This is how Russians drink*. It is not necessarily a great example to follow.

* Actually, it's more a case of seating, eating, and bellowing at the top of your lungs.

Posted by: Tim Newman | Aug 14, 2005 7:03:06 PM

Tim N, I'm sure the French wake up in unknown bedrooms as well ...

I'm not a social historian but aren't many of our drinking habits and our pub culture in general the product of the early 20th century -- and specifically the reduced opening times imposed during WWI? The lack of food is because only men drank in pubs: women made food at home. The drinking quickly and standing come from the short time between getting off work and closing time.

Of course, given Tim's politics, we could say that the British pub produced Arthur Scargill, while France begat General de Gaulle.

Tim adds: Or, indeed, Nick Griffin and Georges Marechais.

Posted by: Backword Dave | Aug 16, 2005 9:40:22 AM