Saturday, October 13, 2012
Food glorious food....Come dine with me,perhaps!
Culinary delight & the French culture are, as we all know , intrinsically linked. Children, like their parents, take food very seriously. 'Super U' shopping is not like the 'Tesco' rush to fill the trolley & avoid the perpetual requests from the kids "can I have this mum?" For the French, its a measured and civilised occasion, with choices made & conversations entered into.
At the check out, discussion & politeness are more important than the speed with which the customers are served and nobody in the queue, however long, objects.The time for customer conversation is important, packing undertaken carefully and finally then payment (sometimes by long winded cheque) and this must all be respected, it is a meaningful event.
What other country, but France, would have baby food called 'Artichoke Diner' or 'Ratatouille....'? Morrison's nearest culinary labels for babies are, 'Grandpa's Sunday Lunch' or 'My 1st Bolognaise' , it just doesn't seem the same. But the whole area of food, its purchase, its preparation and particularly its consumption are serious.
Its a devotion, in which the cathedrals are the top restaurants, the religious orders are the 'Master Chef' programmes and the high priests the Michelin & Egon Ronay chefs .
We were recently invited by some French farming friends for a meal. A typical French longere farmhouse which has been modernised to give a lovely ambiance, comfortable and contemporary. The meal was superb, the conversation wonderful, but our hosts made the highlight of the evening, a viewing, over cheese & desert, of the finale of 'Mastef Chef', on their huge plasma TV. People are passionate about food...
No more obvious in the anglo / franco cultural differences towards eating is the popular programme 'Come Dine with Me', known in France as 'Un Diner Preque Parfait', or 'An Almost Perfect Diner'.
Both countries market the programme as a competition for 4 or 5 amateur chefs to cook and entertain each other and be scored on their results, but the resultant programmes are worlds apart
In England the empathises seems to be on shock tactics before cuisine. One weeks' contestant comprised a host who insisted that "if people were stressed they can touch my breasts", whilst encouraging everyone to"get sloshed" she defended her brashness by the adage, "if you've got it flaunt it". Another participant was a gnome collector who referred to his rival in the kitchen as a 'cocky young upstart'. When it comes to the food the comparison is lost altogether. The English programme seems to loose all sight of this part of the enterprise, focusing on any arguments or sexy bits, food and its preparation are incidental to the evening.
In France guests have included Frederic Mitterrand, who is the nephew of the late Socialist President Francois Mitterrand and a close friend of ex-first Lady Carla Bruni. At the end of the week contestants are marked on cuisine, ambiance, table decor and the theme or animation of the evening.The French watch , sample comment intellectually and enjoy all aspects of the food. They never refuse to eat anything, never swig back their drinks or overindulge and leave politely, clearly having enjoyed the efforts their fellow contestants have made.
So if you want to define the social differences between the two nations, just watch these two programmes. Yes they do have the same prize money, 'One Thousand', but the French are short changes because they get euros where as the guys from the UK pick their winnings up in pounds.
Know where I'd rather 'dine'?? ...mais oui!