They're no croissants, but kebabs are skyrocketing in popularity in France. And in the wake of that rising popularity, France’s wearisome attitude toward its growing Muslim population reflects a compelling cultural shift.
The French, as most people would imagine, take their food very seriously. Just look at how a simple meal involves several courses.
Culture is never static and food can be an agent of change. This is exactly what seems to be happening in France recently.
Kebabs made their way into France's collective stomach in the 1990s when Turkish immigrants brought with them their doner kebabs.
Just last month, four kebab houses opened in the French town Blois. The industry now spans several variations of kebabs, not limited to its Turkish descent into Paris. There is even a low-fat, slow-marinated artisanal “chic kebab” being sold in the capital.
It is a flourishing industry throughout the country where, for the price of €6 a piece, 300 million kebabs are eaten across 10,200 outlets annually. According to Gira Consel, the traditional meat dish is third most popular, following burgers and pizza, in the food market.
Evidently the people buying kebabs are not just tourists, but locals, too. However, the kebab might be a bit difficult to swallow given the political undercurrents that come with it.
The National Front, a political party that is described as being nationalist and socially conservative, has candidates who criticize the increasing presence of kebabs in the French market, stating that France was going through "kebabization."
Just like the kebab, pizza was met with similar distaste during the 1960s because it brought with it "dirty Italian shopkeepers who don't speak French and stink of sweat,” according to Damien Schmitz, who owns a kebab house.
To put it into perspective, in the words of Schmitz when asked about criticizing the kebab, “You can speak ill of Muslims without speaking ill of Muslims.”
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Perhaps the French ought to take these kebabs as they were meant to be had: maybe with a pinch of salt.