Official: British are better at cooking than the French
…A poll has undermined France's reputation as the home of unrivalled culinary excellence with results that suggest the British cook more often, for longer, and produce greater variety than their French counterparts.
As the French television station TF1 put it: "They trounced us at Trafalgar. They whipped us at Waterloo. Now the English have scored their ultimate victory: they are better at cooking than us … we, the self-proclaimed kings of nosh."
The survey, carried out by the French magazine Madame Le Figaro and the BBC's food magazine Olive, has produced an agony of French soul-searching – and a certain amount of disbelief – over the apparent erosion of the country's most celebrated heritage.
…Marilyn Jarman, 36, a French marketing manager, has lived in London for 15 years and admitted she had noticed a huge improvement in British food. "When I first arrived in Britain, chicken kiev was about as adventurous as it got. Now there are farmers' markets and gastro pubs and we eat really well. French food is good but it tends to be very traditional and the same. My mother's a great cook but it's always the same dishes: sautéed veal, wild boar stew, cannelloni with cheese, fish soup."
Mmmm… wild boar stew. Anyway, this isn’t really surprising at all because the French have no interest in variety or culinary adventure or anything other than the eternal repetitions of a nice if stifling monoculture.
Meanwhile, no cliché about the British is more outdated than that we can’t do food. Never mind the farmer’s markets and gastropubs, which are often rip-offs anyway, the major British supermarkets are exceptionally good, both for ingredients and for readymade stuff. We don’t appreciate this because it has crept up on us. Americans think we eat nothing but liver and custard, but while the States is great for eating out deliciously and cheaply – and their lack of a clear distinction between junk and non-junk food is enjoyable for a bit - they have no notion of reasonable portion sizes and the supermarkets are terrible.
The other day I went to a low-key house party where the hosts served up a buffet lunch. When I was a kid the fare at such events would have consisted of pineapple chunks and plasticy cheese on cocktail sticks, thin ham sandwiches and grisly sausage rolls. On Saturday we loaded our plates from a table holding a platter of seven different continental meats including a quite remarkable chorizo, six cheeses none of which were remotely plasticy, olive bread, two homemade breads, two kinds of olive, a delicious homemade chilli and tomato chutney, a bespoke satay curry rice thing with peanuts which I couldn't stop scoffing, homemade Spanish tortilla and many other such pleasing items, washed down with a few glasses of the host’s homebrewed Weissbier, which wasn’t half bad.
This is normal now in the middle classes (see Channel 4’s hard-hitting social documentary Come Dine with Me) but if anything it’s gone too far. I’m pretty tired of turning on my TV to see somebody trying to serve up grilled monkfish on a bed of puy lentils against the clock while stern-faced judges look on and wait to pronounce on the seasoning. Perhaps Sophie Dahl’s new Nigella-ish show is the sharkjump. The campaign for spaghetti hoops on Mother’s Pride starts here.