20 May 2012

Obama and Hollande: cheeseburger and French fries

On 18 May 2012, ahead of the G8 summit at Camp David and the NATO meeting in Chicago, French President François Hollande and US President Barack Obama held a bilateral meeting at the Oval Office at the White House. At the bilateral meeting, President Obama expressed an interest in President Hollande's views on cheeseburgers in Chicago. See remarks.
I was interested, when I was reading the President's biography, that he actually spent some time in the United States in his youth, studying American fast food -- (laughter) -- and although he decided to go into politics, we'll be interested in his opinions of cheeseburgers in Chicago. (Laughter.)

Hollande (translated)
And I would like to thank President Obama for the knowledge he has of my life before I took office. I will say nothing against cheeseburgers, of course.

I just want to remember that cheeseburgers go very well with French fries. (Laughter.)
Seemingly trivial, the exchange was not unnoticed in media reporting.

See for example, BFMTV (in French) or via YouTube

In Le Nouvel Observateur, Sylvain Courage provided some context to the exchange (my emphasis in bold)
Il sait que le jeune Hollande est venu, dès 1974, étudier le business américain du "fast food". Du coup, il attend avec impatience son jugement concernant les "cheeseburgers" de Chicago sa bonne ville où se tiendra, ce week-end, un sommet de l’Otan. L’allusion est rituelle. Combien de leaders mondiaux ont dû faire l’éloge du petit pain rond garni de steack haché pour s’attirer le lumineux sourire de Barack

La blague finaude souligne la dette culturelle et gastronomique du premier des frenchies. Naguère Sarkozy avait confié son admiration naïve pour Marilyn Monroe, John Wayne et l’inspecteur Colombo… Cette fois, le président français passe pour un accro du "Big Mac" et du "sundae fraise".
and finally
Pour conclure l’entretien préliminaire, Obama lance une dernière plaisanterie : les cheeseburgers de Chicago vont très bien avec les "french fries", ces frites que l’Amérique bushienne avait conspuées par francophobie post-irakienne… Hollande qui goûte autant la friture que la métaphore se garde "de faire tout commentaire." Pas de doute, pour tous les experts ès-diplomatie, le couple franco-américaine a remis le couvert.
The food metaphor signalled unchanged strengthened Franco-American relations.

See full exchange on White House YouTube complete with translators

1 comment:

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