In a time when a single pizza may be constructed from ingredients sourced from 60 countries on five continents, the idea of living a truly local life may seem somewhat daunting, if not impossible. But such is the mission that French journalist Benjamin Carle has tasked himself with: For nine months, the Parisian is eating and using only items made in France.
Given the nature of French cheese, bread and wine, the challenge may not seem so bad, but when movers came to extract all that wasn’t French from his flat, the 25-year-old was left with little furniture, few clothes, and a glaring lack of appliances.
In an essay he penned for The Guardian, he wrote:
Before May this year, my furniture came from Ikea, I bought my clothes online via English or American websites. Labels on my sweatshirt and jeans were Asian (China, India, Indonesia, Bangladesh), Middle Eastern (Turkey) and north African (Morocco, Tunisia). I ate fruit and vegetables without worrying about the seasons or origin. I listened to the latest albums reviewed on the US music site Pitchfork. A week didn't go by without listening to David Bowie, Radiohead and the Smiths. I was more familiar with independent American cinema than French blockbusters. In short, I was the perfect example of a generation that had only experienced a world becoming increasingly globalized.
Initially the idea seemed crazy to Carle, since as a consumer he had no idea what was manufactured in France. But the journalist in him found the challenge impossible to resist.
"I am not someone who is particularly patriotic and I'm not at all nationalistic. Like many young people, my cultural influences are mostly Anglo-American," he said. "It's an experiment to see if it can be done, and if it could save jobs in France."
With a few months left to go, Carle has not consumed food that has been shipped across the globe or used foreign manufactured goods; he says that his life has changed a lot. He doesn’t have a refrigerator or washing machine and cannot use his bike. No nail clippers, no kettle, and no exotic fruit. He describes it as “living encased in a blue-white-red bubble where all my actions have an effect on French employment levels.”
"It's harder than you'd think,” he says. He found that even small electronics, of which he thought he’d have at least a few choices, were not made in France. “I discovered they were all made in China.”
And although his cat, Loon, was named for British rocker Keith "the Loon" Moon, fortunately for all concerned, the cat was officially made in France.
The adventures of Carle’s local-only life with be turned into a television documentary, “Monsieur Made-in-France,” which will air in the spring.