Low-Carb, Euro-Style In France, They Call Low-Carb Eating...Eating

Last week, I shared the horrifying news that I ate two croissants in Paris, risking excommunication from the Exalted Order of Low-Carb Fanatics (EOLCF).

But — as I hope I explained convincingly — a low-carb, high-fat diet is a direction, not an inviolable mandate. When the best croissants in Paris appear before you, forget about carbs! For the love of God, eat them!

Then, mon ami, you can return to the diet extolled by the EOLCF.

And actually, in both England and France, once we got past the bakeries, we were thrilled to find that eating low-carb meals was extraordinarily easy. That’s because…

The Europeans Never Lost Their Way

You see, the Europeans never fell under the sway of “grains healthy, meat poison” nonsense that Big Food, desirous of the high-profit margins in grains, has pushed on us Yanks since the late 1960s.

While Americans were debating whether meat was toxic (a status it never had during 4 million years of hominid evolution), the Europeans kept eating meat and kept taking it seriously.

This attitude is reflected in stores like this:

George Bower

In Edinburgh, Scotland, George Bower has sold top-quality meat proudly and without apologies for 70 years.

In America, the fact that meat is regarded as slightly obscene is exemplified by its typically sanitized supermarket presentation. Hair, hooves, entrails and other species-specific details are stripped away to create generic packets of protein. These are then dyed bright red to create further psychic distance from the actual animals.

Bower window

Actual hare and actual pheasants hang in Bower’s window. Perhaps you approve of eating such things. Perhaps you don’t. When the animal’s nature is not hidden by generic packaging, you make this choice like an adult, not a squeamish child.

The Scots, on the other hand, live closer to the land and understand that when one eats an animal, one is eating an animal. Meat is treated with refreshing honesty, care and appreciation.

Hooray for Animal Fat!

The Continentals revere animal fat as well. Check out this rotisserie operation on a Paris backstreet:

Animal fat on potatoes

Potatoes are strategically placed to catch the precious drippings from the rotisserie meat above…

And here’s a selection of some of our more memorable low-carb European meals:

Steak tartare

Steak tartare with Parmesan shavings at Le Bistrot de Maëlle et Augustin in Paris. I’ve never seen this legendary dish on a menu in the U.S., perhaps due to widespread American concern that raw beef will kill you. It didn’t kill me, and it was, in fact, one of the best entrees I’ve ever had.

Lamb bacon and braised cabbage

Lamb bacon and braised cabbage, the specialty at Henri in Edinburgh.

scrambled eggs with onion, smoked Scottish salmon, English pork bacon, grapes and local cheddar cheese

Breakfast at Le Méridien Piccadilly in London: scrambled eggs with onion, smoked Scottish salmon, English pork bacon, grapes and local cheddar cheese.

In short, we’ve never eaten better.

Bottom Line

Eating low-carb, high-fat foods in the U.S. can seem daunting because we Yanks suffer from both shame and worry about eating meat.

So it was refreshing to spend time in cultures where meat is treated as healthful, worthy of respect and still in possession of its integrity as an animal’s flesh.

I’ve heard that this ethic is beginning to catch on in the U.S. as well. In California, always the tip of the spear of American food trends, urbanites are learning to humanely raise, kill and dress farm animals, doing each step consciously and taking responsibility for it.

If butchering courses are a bridge too far, we Americans who eat meat should at least spend the extra time and effort to be sure what we buy was raised humanely and sustainably.

The website Eatwild offers information about farmers and ranchers in all 50 states who follow responsible animal husbandry. Here in Arizona, our purchases from local ranchers such as JH Grass Fed have allowed us to cook meals as memorable as those we enjoyed in the Old Country.

Each time you buy from growers like these, you support an “alternate universe” of meat production in the U.S. that resembles the best aspects of the European model.

It’s more expensive, but consider every extra dollar spent a worthy contribution to a more humane, healthful and sustainable American food supply.

And Finally… 

How do Europeans really feel about hyperprocessed American GMO corn products? Voilà:

Corn Flakes

Still overpriced, but they’ve got the right idea…


Brad Lemley

Brad Lemley

About Brad Lemley

I am a science journalist who has written for the Washington Post, Discover Magazine and dozens of other national publications. I've written or co-written 10 books, most on health and fitness. I am a passionate advocate for self-directed, nature-based health care, and believe strongly that robust health is within reach of anyone who possesses the right information.