After a fortnight in France, I returned home last weekend with the lasting impression that the French enjoy a far healthier relationship with their food and drink than we do.
I was struck by how intrinsic the concepts of local sourcing and eating in tune with the seasons are to French dining. The French are able to recite the market days in their surrounding towns like a child reciting their times tables. They take a pride in their region's produce and are deeply defensive of its flavours and traditions.
Our guesthouse in Beaune proudly served us cheese made by the Cistercian monks from nearby Citeaux Abbey, at breakfast, while the couple whose château we stayed at near Epernay insisted we try the quince jam they had home-made from fruits picked in their garden. Even McDonald's offers Le Charolais alongside Le Big Mac.
As for the bouillabaisse served in and around Marseille, so strict are the protocols dictating ingredients, preparation and presentation, that restaurants serving the real deal sign up to a Bouillabaisse Charter as proof of authenticity.
Wine is no different. Supermarkets and restaurants major on their regional specialities and everyone you meet is able to speak eloquently about terroir, vintages and viticulture. Should you want a tipple, you'll often find a range of local varietals, many of them available by the glass or half-bottle.
In last Monday's United against Waste live debate, hosted on www.catererandhotelkeeper.com and sponsored by Unilever Food Solutions, much of the talk was of how food waste could be greatly reduced if consumers could be educated to embrace our indigenous produce warts and all, and learn to love unfashionable cuts and imperfectly shaped vegetables. Perhaps a trip to meet our neighbours might convince them.
By Mark Lewis
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