Apparently bored with the idea of secession from Canada, Quebec has set its sights on a new target: “Grilled cheese.” But don’t worry: You won’t have to head to a seedy underground sandwich shop to buy cheese melted between two pieces of bread. The sandwich itself is not off-limits. But as for calling it a “grilled cheese,” that can cause some controversy.
Stephane Rheaume (possessor of a very French-sounding name, mind you) found that out the hard way when he received a letter from the “L'Office quebecois de la langue francaise”—better known as the Canadian province’s language police—complaining that the name of his restaurant, Resto La Mama Grilled Cheese Gourmet, violated French-language rules by including the English phrase “Grilled Cheese.” Instead, they suggested, Rheaume should use the French equivalent, “sandwich au fromage fondant,” despite the fact that, as Rheaume told Munchies, “the word ‘grilled cheese’ is used by about 90 percent of Quebecers.”
Instead of simply acquiescing, the Resto La Mama owner decided to fight back by taking his plight to the press. According to Rheaume, he believes that tactic worked because, not long after, the L’OQLF put out a statement saying it “desire rectifier certains faits” and claiming that though a letter was sent, the restaurant’s name would not have to change.
“After all of the media attention we got last week, the Office is almost willing to admit to having made a mistake about the word ‘grilled cheese’ as being a violation of the Charter,” said Rheaume. Even better for Rheaume, the publicity surrounding the controversy has done wonders for promoting his restaurant’s name, French or not.
Still, you only have to take a moment to pop over to the L’OQLF website to see that, indeed, “grilled cheese,” as a term, is “not recommended” because the phrase, fully borrowed from English, “fills no lexical gap in French.” I wonder if the Quebec language police have a preferred term for the food phrase “bunch of bologna”?