You can get many things from your local vending machine in the United States: snacks, drinks, cold sandwhiches, and hot soup. But the French have done us one better. Inside a vending machine in Paris, you may find sausage, steak or charcuterie. Contributor David Leite and journalist Samuel Petrequin discuss this unique machine. Petraquin is author of "Paris gets sausages and steaks 24/7 from vending machine" for the Associated Press.
David Leite: Tell me about this very curious contraption -- which to us Americans seems rather odd -- of a meat vending machine in Paris.
Samuel Petrequin: For us French it’s very odd too because this is not something we often see in the Paris streets. There are three of these machines in France. The one in Paris is outside a butcher shop.
I went to see the owners of the butcher shop, and surprisingly they told me that the business started very well actually. After a couple of months of activity, they are selling a lot of meat from the machine.
I spoke to some of the people in the butcher shop, and they were quite interested in the concept. Most of them think that it would help them during weekends when lots of shops are closed in France, especially the little shops. They said that it would be very convenient to have such a machine.
The owners of the butcher shop said that many customers buying the meat from the machine are actually revelers after a night out in Paris at 2 a.m. They are getting hungry; they buy a steak, they go back home, they cook the steak, open another bottle of wine and the party continues.
DL: I was just imagining these older cooks, these women and these men going there and not being able to tell the butcher, "I want that particular meat, I want that particular steak." They were OK with whatever comes out of the vending machine?
SP: Some of the people I spoke with said that they like to come to their favorite shop to speak with the butcher, have some sort of interaction between them. They were less interested in the concept. They want to have the possibility to choose.
But I have to say, I tasted a very nice pate. The quality of the food is amazing. It’s a refrigerated machine, [where the meat changes] every day. The pate I had was excellent. I had it with a baguette. It was a perfect sandwich. The price is quite the same as the products they sell inside the shop.
(Photo: davitydave / Flickr)
DL: Speaking of baguettes, there are also machines that sell baguettes, which were the precursor to the meat machines?
SP: Exactly. The baguette vending machine was the precursor. It has spread across France very quickly. They became very popular, actually.
DL: What are some of the meats that are being sold in the vending machines?
SP: You have steak, pate, beef carpaccio and a lot of delicatessen coming from the southwest of France because the owners are from that region. Sausages as well.
DL: Do you see this concept taking off in Paris?
SP: I’m quite skeptical actually. It’s a good extra something, like we said for revelers, for people going out late, but it won’t take over.
Paris, contrary to London for example, is a city where small shops are still predominant. People in Paris don’t really like to go to supermarkets to run around. I guess they will remain attached to the local shops and won’t switch to machines for that.
David Leite is the publisher of the website Leite's Culinaria, which has won two James Beard awards. He is the author Notes on a Banana: A Memoir of Food, Love, and Manic Depression, as well as The New Portuguese Table: Exciting Flavors from Europe's Western Coast, which won the 2010 IACP First Book/Julia Child Award. His writing has appeared in publications such as The New York Times, Martha Stewart Living, Saveur, Bon Appetit, Gourmet, Food & Wine, Pastry Art & Design, Food Arts, the Los Angeles Times, the Chicago Sun-Times, The Washington Post and the Charlotte Observer. His awards include a 2008 James Beard award for Newspaper Feature Writing Without Recipes, a 2006 Bert Green Award for Food Journalism, and Association of Food Journalists awards in 2006 and 2007.