The French are renowned for 90-minute long lunches, complete with a glass of wine, but things are changing. A recent report on the French news indicated that the majority of French workers are now bringing their own lunches to work. Rather than brown-bagging an uninspired sandwich, however, the French opt for chic gamelles (gam-el), or lunch boxes, with more in common with sleek Japanese bento boxes than Tupperware.
The gamelle is hardly new. In the hungry hands of soldiers, la gamelle was known as a mess kit. In the post-war years, they carried the daily bread of laborers who rebuilt France. Today, each compartment in la gamelle is filled with a different food for a meal that is well-balanced, attractive, and inexpensive. Microwave, to table, to dishwasher, the modern gamelle does it all with style.
The new gamelle owes its popularity to the financial crisis of 2008. Packing one’s own lunch is half the price of the classic trip to a boulangerie for a sandwich and a quarter of the price of a restaurant meal, and it takes a lot less time. In addition to the economic argument, the trend suits those who are concerned about the quality of what’s on their plate. And since the average French lunch break is down to thirty-one minutes, who has time to wait in line? But with typical French élan, French cooking shows, blogs, and classes are teaching people how to create use gamelle gastronomique, full of gourmet goodies. Bon apétit, but now get back to work.