Magazine article The New Yorker

Dog's Dinner

Magazine article The New Yorker

Dog's Dinner

Article excerpt

DOG'S DINNER

The latest stage in the decline of French civilization began in the summer of 2009 at a Thai restaurant in Los Angeles. Arash Derambarsh, a book editor and criminology student in Paris, was visiting his twin brother, Sia, who was in California working in film production. Derambarsh ordered chicken curry. It arrived in a bowl big enough to mix a cake. "After that long flight, I couldn't eat it all," Derambarsh recalled. "So my brother asked me, 'You want a doggy bag?' I thought, Is he talking about 'Reservoir Dogs'? My brother said, 'No, Arash, here in the United States, when someone can't finish his meal he takes it home in a doggy bag and eats it at 2 A.M. ' "

Derambarsh was sitting in a cafe in the Seventh Arrondissement of Paris, steak and potatoes steaming in front of him. In 2014, he added local politician to his professional portfolio, winning a seat on the city council of the Paris suburb of Courbevoie. (In 2008, in what TechCrunch called "probably the biggest hoax in the history of Facebook," he managed to convince much of the French media that he had been elected the president of Facebook, but this was the real deal.) His issue is le gaspillage alimentaire --food waste. Le Monde recently called him an "hyperactiviste " for the cause. Two weeks earlier, a law for which he had lobbied tirelessly--petitioning lawmakers and posing with cast-off carrots--went into effect, requiring French restaurants that produce more than ten metric tons of food waste a year to recycle their scraps. Last year, Derambarsh successfully promoted a measure obliging supermarkets to donate unsold food to charity. The recent legislation merely suggested that restaurateurs offer to-go containers to clients, but word had circulated, instantly becoming urban legend: doggy bags a l'americaine were now mandatory in France.

"The literal translation is sac a chien ," Sud-Ouest explained, in a tutorial. "It's a bag in which the client of a restaurant wraps up the food that he hasn't finished, in order to serve it to his dog once he gets home. This practice is very well known in Anglo-Saxon and Asian countries, but still in the embryonic stage in France. Of course, if you don't have a dog, you can also consume the remains of your most recent meal yourself. …

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