The (groan) burgers of Calais

Caught during a Prairie Home Companion re-run on the radio yesterday: a joke set-up for the burgers of Calais (referring to hamburgers), punning on Rodin’s The Burghers of Calais (his extraordinary bronze sculpture).

Burghers. The Stanford version of Burghers (in Memorial Court, more or less outside the window of an office I had some years ago):


From Wikipedia on the sculpture:

Les Bourgeois de Calais is one of the most famous sculptures by Auguste Rodin. It commemorates an occurrence during the Hundred Years’ War, when Calais, an important French port on the English Channel, was under siege by the English for over a year. Calais commissioned Rodin to create the sculpture in 1884, and the work was completed in 1889

… The City of Calais had attempted to erect a statue of Eustache de Saint Pierre, eldest of the burghers, since 1845. Two prior artists were prevented from executing the sculpture: the first, David d’Angers, by his death; and the second, Auguste Clésinger, by the Franco-Prussian War. In 1884 the municipal corporation of the city invited several artists, Rodin amongst them, to submit proposals for the project.

Rodin’s design was controversial. The public had a lack of appreciation for it because it didn’t have “overtly heroic antique references” which were considered integral to public sculpture. It was not a pyramidal arrangement and contained no allegorical figures. It was intended to be placed at ground level, rather than on a pedestal. The burghers were not presented in a positive image of glory; instead, they display “pain, anguish and fatalism”. To Rodin, this was nevertheless heroic, the heroism of self-sacrifice.

In 1895 the monument was installed in Calais on a large pedestal in front of Parc Richelieu, a public park, contrary to the sculptor’s wishes, who wanted contemporary townsfolk to “almost bump into” the figures and feel solidarity with them. Only later was his vision realized, when the sculpture was moved in front of the newly completed town hall of Calais, where it now rests on a much lower base.

… Under French law no more than twelve original casts of works of Rodin may be made.

The first cast of the group of six figures, cast in 1895 still stands in Calais. Other original casts stand at [I emphasize the American casts, most of which I have seen]:

Glyptoteket in Copenhagen, cast 1903.

… the Rodin Museum in Philadelphia, cast 1925 and installed in 1929.

the gardens of the Musée Rodin in Paris, cast 1926 and given to the museum in 1955.

… the Smithsonian Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in Washington, D.C., cast 1943 and installed in 1966.

… the Norton Simon Museum in Pasadena, California, cast 1968.

the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, cast 1985 and installed in 1989:


PLATEAU (formerly the Rodin Gallery) in Seoul. This is the 12th and final cast in the edition, cast 1995.

Sculptures of the individual figures from the monument are on the campus of Stanford University.

Burgers. Hamburgers have become a big thing in France. A Telegraph (UK) piece by Henry Samuel from 3/8/16, “‘Le burger’ now top selling dish in French restaurants, new study reveals: New figures suggest the decidedly un-French burger is served in 75 per cent of French eateries from the most humble fast food outlets to top-notch restaurants”:

For the guardians of French gastronomy, the prospect of being served something as unsophisticated as a slab of mincemeat with a bap and slice of cheese would long have been considered sacrilegious.

Today, however, the tables have turned. In a culinary revolution, three quarters of French restaurants now sell hamburgers and 80 per cent of these say it has become their top-selling dish, according to a new study.

“Le burger” – as the French dub the quintessentially American invention to the despair of linguistic purists of the Académie Française – has become a feature of even the most illustrious eateries.

Indeed, such is its success that sales are set to overtake those of the classic “jambon beurre” (ham and butter baguette), the nation’s staple lunchtime sandwich.

Last year, the French chomped their way through 1.19 billion burgers, an 11 per cent rise on the previous year, while “le jambon beurre” fell to 1.23 billion.

“Burger mania (in France) is unstoppable,” declared Bernard Boutboul, head of Gira Conseil, the food consultancy behind the study.

A Parisian burger, incorporating some frites:


Meanwhile, in Calais…

The port city of Calais is the largest city in the French department of Pas-de-Calais (the French name for the body of water we know in English as the Strait of Dover), with Boulogne-sur-Mer in second place; the capital city is Arras.

A search for hamburgers in Pas-de-Calais yields a huge list of places in or within 25 miles of the department: among them, places in Ypres, Belgium, and in Lille, Saint-Omer, Mimeraux, Le Touquet, Arras, and yes, Calais itself. In particular, the Buffalo Grill in Calais. The exterior:


and the interior:


Maine burgers. Now to Calais ME. From Wikipedia:

Calais /ˈkælᵻs/ is a city in Washington County, Maine, United States. As of the 2010 census, it had a population of 3,123. The city has three Canada–US border crossings (also known as ports of entry) over the St. Croix River connecting to St. Stephen, New Brunswick, Canada.

Notes on Calais ME:

First, it’s tiny, especially in comprison to Calais, France (which had a population of 126,395 in the 2010 census, roughly 40 times the size of the Maine town).

Second, there’s a considerable Francophone presence there, but it’s Canadian French, not continental French.

Third, note the pronunciation of the town’s name. It’s a spelling pronunciation, accented on the first syllable rather than the second, homophonous with Engish callous / callus or nearly so. This means that the burgers of Calais is a piss-poor pun in Maine.

Finally, despite its size, it manages to have at least two places serving hamburgers. One is a McDonald’s — which makes it not unlike France, where McDonald’ses are all the rage. The other is a warmer local place called Yancy’s, seen here in an interior view:


There are probably some more hamburger joints over the border in New Brunswick.

One Response to “The (groan) burgers of Calais”

  1. arnold zwicky Says:

    From Kyle Wohlmut, who shared this posting on Facebook, with the added tag:

    …and the horse you Rodin on

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