Act I: The Announcement
It is a Saturday night during the February holidays. In the TGV returning to Paris, there is not a single free seat. It's time for dinner. As usual, we head towards the bar. Suddenly, the loudspeakers announce that the Société des Wagons-Lits Accor will be replaced by the company Cremonini tomorrow, and that, tonight, there are no more than a dozen sandwiches left. In the bar, the situation is clear: we are facing scarcity! And when you say scarcity, you say animal instinct. A couple grab as much food as possible, fearing shortage, another take only a minimum so that there may be enough for everyone, a woman and her child make do with what is left - instinct, I tell you. On the counter lies a tray of grubby croissants. One might think that, given the crudeness of the situation - closing shop on THE Saturday night of the February holidays to those travelling to and fro - the SNCF or the Société Accor would at least have offered to provide free croissants as reparation. Well no, the unsavoury pastries are for sale. We? We are key consumers, seeking pleasure. We learned from our travel experiences, not to fear the notorious SNCF sandwich so disparaged in the eighties. We had actually come to appreciate the "good and well made" concept and its modern outlook, and the little 'cassoulets' and other dishes and cakes that we could eat without having to worry about the E thingummy and the overabundance of xanthan gum, glucose-fructose and trans fats. In short, we were happy, and we were used to this little pleasure. Until that night ...
Act II: The Injury
A few days later, once again driven by hunger, here we are at the bar. After all, why not try this new Italian company. We will see what it's like. There is no crowd, just one lady behind us. I rapidly notice that “Michel et Augustin”, my favourite biscuit brand, has disappeared. And so has any novelty. And anything at all well packaged. I suddenly have the impression of finding myself in a cantina – of the eighties. Back to the past, orchestrated by three "organics" showing up on products of no interest, and of course the famous words "low prices", which they are not. But impressions aside, one has to order. Faced with the novelty of the menu, I hesitate a moment. The server immediately turns to the only person behind us, "And for you, what will it be?" Interrupted in my reflection in the most odious manner, my hackles rise, "I have not finished ordering... ". The man replies: "You are hesitating, so I serve the next person". And he adds, "I, I am paid on commission, I've no time to wait for you!". I am not the kind to remain silent, and I let him know, "How would you like it if you were treated this way?" The answer was, "Oh, me? I've known worse than that, much worse!". I am speechless. We end up by buying "something to eat". All notions of pleasure have disappeared. We just want to finish as quickly as possible. Of course, the sum we leave is twice less than before. Of course, the food is of poor quality, packed with additives (see my PS below). We will henceforth do everything possible to avoid eating on the train. In the end (and choked with anger), I wonder who buys this kind of meal. Certainly not the most modest: they have brought something to eat with them. Who else is there? People like us? No more culinary research, no healthy products, a limited selection, prices only slightly lower: the SNCF aimed at the wrong target and is missing the point. And to think that some big names right now are working on affordable luxury ...
© Virginie Michelet
PS: For the record, here are the ingredients of the "Wrap", ripped from the clutches of the vendor, as shown on the box (except for my comments in italics):
Wheat biscuits with tomato (44%), wheat flour, water, palm and rapeseed oils (note that when nothing is specified, these fats are hydrogenated, full of trans-fat), tomato, paprika, salt, sugar, emulsifiers: E471 and E472e, acidifying agents E296 and E330, raising agents: E450 and E500, basil.
Roast chicken 22% (20% chicken filet, antioxidants: E325 and E331, milk protein, soy protein, salt, lactose, gelling agent: E407a, stabilizer: E451, corn oil).
Caesar sauce 14% (mayonnaise, soybean or sunflower oil, water, egg yolk, acetate vinegar, salt, acidifying agent: E330, antioxidant: E224, turmeric, sugar, salt, modified corn starch (very harmful), stabilizers: E412 and E415, Colouring: E160a).
Cottage cheese (skimmed milk, fresh cream, lactic ferments), parmesan, anchovies, concentrate-based lemon and orange juice, water, lemon pulp, acidifier: E330, natural lemon extract, modified cassava starch (again), garlic, soybean oil, salt, pepper, salad, butter.
... One never checks the labels enough!!