The Original Finger Food

Are you having friends in tonight? Are you having one of those annoying finger food buffets where there is never enough to eat and what you eat gives to indigestion and what you eat is a proof of the culiinary incompetence of your host(ess) ?- read on for the original finger food.

First of November – sombre, damp dead day. A day for the dead – the day when the French head for their cemeteries to spruce up the family grave and remember those who rest in peace.

Cemeteries are such miserable places. Out on the furthest and bleakest edges of town, lands of death down between the rail tracks and the motorway, down beside the junkyard, and the recycling bins, off all the major bus routes and almost inaccessible to he living and  you wouldn’t want to live here? But the dead don’t seem to mind. They never complain.  I know for sure that I don’t want to spend eternity in my local council cemetery – the place is full of dead people, and what would happen if I ended up next to someone I don’t like.

Today though the French have been visiting those miserable places that we only visit on the same miserable day every year – November 1st – All Saints Day, which in France is also a national public holiday, which are pretty dead days at the best of times.

So, a few French funeral  facts, stats and practices.

In French , and undertaker is called a … well there is no one neat word to translate undertaker – you can say “un conseiller funéraire” or an “entrepreneur en pompes funébres” – which id log and pompous and explains why the majority of French people would still use the term “croque mort” – the verb “croquer” meaning to bite – you mean undertakers go biting corpses in France????  Well, yes, at least they used to. The best way to ensure that the recently deceased really was, consisted in the undertaker sinking his teeth into one of the deceased’s fingers, the ensuing pain would be enough to make the corpse react. Of course in these modern times, French undertakers don’t go around biting the dead.  Indeed, in these modern times undertakers, or funeral directors or whatever you choose to call them, all have undertaking degrees.

In France where there appears to be a state sponsored diploma for entry into every profession, the sector of “funerary management” was diploma-less. Now that has changed. From next year, Paris Dauphine University will start running a three year degree course in “management funéraire.” Don’t bother applying, the course is already full – even at the astronomic price of 8400 Euros a year – in France, all university courses are still free. Students on the new course will study the legal, financial, psychological and environmental sides of the death business. The course content includes modules on marketing, but I can’t see anything about embalming.

Now, out here in La belle France Most people choose a traditional burial however cremations are on the increase – currently 33% – lack of cemetery space or simply a generational change in funeral customs? The reasons for the increase are not clear.

No matter whether you choose burial or cremation, cots is always a major factor. Most people have some kind of insurance to take care of the financial side when the time comes but a funeral can still set you back upwards of 4000 Euros. Well, just as you might choose a low cost airline for your holidays, you can now get a low cost funeral to send you on that final journey. In Paris, the city’s department of mortuary affairs have just launched the on line low cost funeral – just 789 Euros for a basic no frills funeral. So far the department have had 22,000 inquiries, they’ve given 700 estimates and have carried out 500 low cost ceremonies – at an average cost of 1,285 Euros (seems people like a few extras).

As online funeral arrangements – in 2012, 2% of funerals were arranged using the Internet. The trend is explained by a lack of time,convenience dispersal and break up of the family unit. Bury your loved ones in a few clicks – all you have to do is turn up at the ceremony – and I daresay that there are those who “attend” via webcam.

Finally, this being the day when the French attend to the needs of the deceased – sprucing up the grave etc – they actually have to physically get to the grave side, hence the great All Saints getaway – the biggest getaway of the year outside of summer – millions of French people on the road in the fog and the driving rain heading off the family tomb – paradoxically it is the seasonal getaway with the most traffic accidents and deaths on the road.