BONJOUR, BONJOUR. This month I’m writing my column from France. More specifically: the south of France. Where the skies are clear and the air is warm. More specifically still: sitting in a café (outside), in a T-shirt, with a croissant. I could get used to this. C’est la vie.
I’ve just been flicking through a local rag (dusting the cobwebs from the part of my brain which once harboured my A-level French) and what do I find but a page dedicated to foodservice. There’s a story about how chefs here are railing against what they see as a “food porn” trend – when diners take photos of their meals and post them on social networking sites. Some think it’s good publicity, but others are quite upset by it.
“Our aim is to create a special moment in time for our clients,” grumped Alexandre Gauthier of La Grenouillère, which is situated 60km (sorry, 37 miles) from Calais. “And for that you have to switch off your phone.” I can see his point, so I’ll refrain from shooting my petit déjeuner and the views beyond.
The other story also involves an affront to French cuisine – this time in the form of malbouffe, or fast food. L’Observatoire du Pain (yes – they have a lobby group focused on French bread) is up in arms as les Big Macs eat into the sandwich market. A century ago the French scoffed three baguettes a day. Each. Bonnet de douche, as Del Boy might say. By the 1970s this had fallen to just one. And today it stands at half a baguette a day.
A study released by the marketing firm Gira Conseil (which I have since seen picked up by the Telegraph) showed that 75% of French restaurants now sell beef in a bun. Nearly half of all sandwiches sold over here are now burgers, while fast food outlets outnumber traditional restaurants; all of which means less eating of baguettes.
So the renowned French two-hour lunches washed down with wine are about as relevant as Englishmen in bowler hats, claimed the local paper. Still, I’m a traditional guy and it’s almost lunchtime.