The Quick Experience

June 20, 2010

hôtel de ville
– city hall
un centre d’animation – community centre
la vraie gastronomie française – real French gastronomy
A votre santé ! – Cheers!  (Literally, “To your health!”)
haute cuisine
– literally, “high cooking”; elaborate or skillfully prepared food (especially that of France); artful or elaborate cuisine
manger sur le pouce – to have a quick bite to eat
une crêpe salée – a savoury crepe, sometimes sold wrapped in wax paper “to go” at little stands and shops around Paris
à emporter – to go


“Alors je m’étais lancé, je l’avais invitée
Dans le meilleur Quick de la région
A boire en grand seigneur un milk shake à la banane
Dans des grands verres en carton”*

– From the song Carpe Diem by Aldebert

One of the cool things about living in Paris is that, since it is one of the most touristed cities in the world, at any given time there’s almost always bound to be a friend passing through on vacation to keep me from getting too homesick.  This week my friend and former chiropractor Sarah was in town, so I did my best to show her a good time.  Wednesday, we spent the morning window shopping in the Marais and then I took her to Montmartre and Sacre Cœur, which, much to my amazement and despite her many visits to Paris, Sarah had never seen before.

Sarah and I on the steps of Sacre Cœur

Now, I realize that hanging out with your chiropractor is not really something that everyone does, but sometimes life brings you friends in unexpected places and you just have to roll with it.  It no longer seems strange to me, but it can occasionally be a bit weird to explain to people at first.  Sometimes I get tired of the usual awkward: “Uhhhh, she was my chiropractor…  and we really got along, so…” and am tempted to mix things up with a bit of humour.  On the steps of Sacre Cœur, when two friendly tourists struck up a conversation and asked us how we knew each other, it took all my willpower not to listen to the mischievous imp on my shoulder and answer cheekily, “I was once half-naked on her table. There was oil involved.”  For some reason, I felt that response might be misconstrued.

Yesterday I met up with Sarah again, fresh back from a whirlwind two-day jaunt to visit friends in Dublin.  Early in the afternoon, we checked out “Paris D’Amour” at the Hôtel de Ville, an exhibition of photographs by Gérard Uféras representing different facets of love and marriage in what is purportedly one of the most romantic cities in the world.

“Paris D’Amour” is one of many free exhibitions that have been presented by the Mairie de Paris. One of my favourite things about this city is that there are always free, or next-to-free, shows and exhibitions on offer,
so arts and culture aren’t just limited to those who have the money to afford them.

The photographs in the collection were interesting enough to look at, but being a person who loves words (oh yes, the way to my heart has always been a pretty turn of phrase), what I actually adored about the exhibition were the clever little quotes and phrases peppered across the walls.

“Papa, I want to get married. / Are you sure, my son? / Yes. / Well then, think about it a little more.”

“I kissed him in the métro.”
“The moment called for it.”
“We were at métro station ‘Concorde’.”

One of the more striking images from the collection of photographs by Gérard Uféras.

“The weather is beautiful on the day that somebody loves you.”

I thought this image was really sweet. Yes, I know, I’m a big sap.

“Yes, I want him!”

“We have a common project (we’re working on) together: to love each other.”

Now, an exhibition about love and marriage, while poignant and inspiring, when you are single in the most romantic city in the world, can, quite frankly, be a little bit depressing.  After an hour or so of looking at pictures of canoodling couples, Sarah and I decided that drinking our faces off a classy afternoon cocktail might be in order.  We headed away from the centre of town to the much-less-touristy but very lively working-class neighbourhood of Ménilmontant in the 20ième arrondissement.  I had been invited by a friend to a free monthly neighbourhood party taking place that afternoon at the local centre d’animation.  Unfortunately, I misread the transit map and we took the bus in the wrong direction, ending up at Gare Montparnasse all the way at the other end of town.  Oops. We got a nice little tour of the transit system but by the time we actually made our way back to the centre, the event was nearly over.  We got there just in time to catch an amateur concert by a group of local adolescents who were really quite terrible, but also endearingly earnest.  Sarah and I dutifully sat and applauded enthusiastically with the crowd after each number, doing our best not to giggle when the brooding young male singer announced very seriously in cute, heavily-accented English that his next song was going to be about “a woman who tried to shoot me down.”

By the time the concert was done, we were starving.  Between the two of us, we had already dined at countless cute little bistros, adorable take-away crêperies and fancy upmarket restaurants during our various visits to Paris.  This time, we opted to try something a little different.  It was time to put French cuisine to the ultimate test.  Today, we decided, we were going to experience la vraie gastronomie française.  That’s right – we were going to eat dinner at Quick.

Outside the Quick near métro Belleville, where our culinary adventure is about to begin.

For those who don’t know, Quick is France’s answer to McDonald’s (or “Mac-Doe”, as the French like to call it).  I had heard about the chain and seen the signs around town, but not really being a fan of fast food, I had never bothered to venture inside.  Still, there was a small part of me that was secretly curious about what French fast food would taste like.  Would fast food from a nation of foodies be different?  Would it taste better, maybe?  I wanted to compare and contrast.  Of course, none of my Parisian friends could understand why I wanted to go within a hundred feet of such a place.  When I broached the subject, they’d laugh, or look at me blankly, uncomprehending, and say, “But I never eat there.”  Sarah, however, was game, so off we went, giggling at the absurdity of our mission, to the nearest Quick.

After perusing the menu, we decided that if we were going to have the full Quick experience, we should really go whole hog (no pun intended) and order the “Menu Suprême Cheese”: a giant burger with lettuce, tomato, melted emmenthal cheese and the ubiquitous mystery “white sauce” that seems to adorn every sandwich I order in this city.

In addition to the Suprême Cheese, the Quick menu also offered the “Long Fish”, the “Quick’n Toast”
and a chocolate dessert called the “Bigoo Choco.”

We forked over our €7,20, carried our trays to a brightly-coloured Formica table and inspected our dinner with an analytical eye.  So far, the food didn’t look any different than a North American fast food meal.

Our authentic French fast food meal, pre-taste test. The writing on the carton in the foreground reads:
“Our fries are not salted after cooking. Taste them before adding salt.”
Is… is a fast food joint… trying to encourage a sodium-reduced diet?

Next, it was time for the taste test.

A votre santé !

Sarah bit tentatively into her burger and made a face.  “Ugh, it’s lukewarm,” she grimaced.  I tried some of the fries and wrinkled my nose.  Not only were they also lukewarm, they were a bit stale too.  Both burger and fries tasted like they’d been sitting on the warming rack for quite a while.  Which, let’s face it, they probably had, since most Parisians were likely smart enough to give the place a wide berth.

Quick FAIL

We valiantly continued on for a bit, mostly because we were really hungry, but the meal was pretty unappetizing.  At least at McDonald’s, they understand that in order to hold any kind of appeal, fast foods – particularly French fries – need to be served piping hot.  Or perhaps by this point, our palates had just been spoiled by all the good food we’d been eating elsewhere in the city.  The meat patty was kind of tasteless, the flavour of both it and the emmenthal cheese seriously overpowered by the generous glob of white sauce that topped them both.  Sarah found the texture of the tomatoes oddly mushy and picked off most of her toppings, pushing them into a sad, soggy little pile in the corner of her tray rather than eat them.  In the end, neither of us could finish our burgers.  I’m pretty sure what I ingested of mine is still sitting, like a rock, in the pit of my stomach.

Well, there you have it.  The French may have it all over us when it comes to haute cuisine, but when it comes to manger sur le pouce, at least as far as our selective sampling was concerned, I’d say that we win hands-down.  Of course, whether or not that’s something that we should be proud of…  well, that’s another argument for another day!

Now pass me une crêpe salée à emporter please. I didn’t really have any dinner.

* Loosely translated: “So I gathered up my courage and invited her to the best Quick in the region to drink, in royal splendour, banana milkshakes from big cardboard cups.” “Carpe Diem” is a sweet, nostalgic song in which the artist reminisces about a long-lost, but not forgotten, high school love.

5 Responses to “The Quick Experience”

  1. Andrea Says:

    Brave girl. Thanks for taking one for the collective team.


  2. Alia Says:

    Awesome entry. I am totally going to badger you about non-tourist things to do while I’m there.

    By the way, your bangs look awesome and I want your shirt.


    • Darlene Says:

      Thanks Alia! I’m especially pleased that you, the burger expert, liked it!

      That’s so funny, I have been dying to cut my hair but am still in economy mode so I’ve been putting it off. My bangs are driving me crazy!

      Which shirt are you talking about? The red and white checked one?


      • Alia Says:

        Yes! The red and white checked one! It’s awesome. I was actually trying to peer around the burger so i could see the detailing on the collar.

        And i won’t lie…even though you talked about how gross the burgers were, you gave me a McDonald’s craving. I had falafel instead.


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