Sunday, 29 April 2012

Foreign Parts

You realise the effect of age and disability when you cannot catch the snail which your plump and lovely French chef has deposited, with two others, on your dinner plate. And is it etiquette for your neighbour at the table to scoop it up and eat it if it clambers onto his plate, having made it's escape from your territory? Anyway, I feel snails are a much over-rated source of protein!
  Which may convey to you the fact that your liberation from my blog for two weeks is not due to the family embargo, but to the excursion we have recently made to La Belle France, by train and River Cruise. Our ship carried us from Avignon to Challons sur Saone in great comfort, together with a hundred and more citizens of the U.S.A. and a few others, the balance being from the U.K. We moved around from table to table, and found that the British embargo on certain dinner table topics, was completely and refreshingly ignored by our friends from "across the pond." One evening we had an extensive discussion about the historicity of the Gospel narratives, and the implications. As we alternated between British and U.S. guests, one had to be quite intellectually on one's toes!
   It was only my second ever real visit to France. Previously I had just passed through on the way to somewhere else. My viewpoint about our Gallic neighbours was, I think, derived from my father and his experiences in the trenches in the First World War. When the French army mutinied in 1917, the British had to take over their trenches as well as manning their own, and out thinly held line suffered appalling casualties as a result. As we were defending France at the time, it was an event that was hard to forgive and forget.
  However, back to the present, and I believe I made a discovery. Those of you who have seen me in the flesh, will know from my figure that I enjoy my food. The more flesh you have seen, the stronger will be your conviction! And you will also know, perhaps only by hearsay, that I am served by a ravishing and most expert personal chef.
   Now the food on our good ship Neptune was good, don't get me wrong. And every evening Madame Chef appeared to describe for us the Dinner menu. Exclamations such as "Ah", "Ou la la" "Magnifique" "Yum yum" and many others of a crooning and lip smacking nature abounded. We salivated accordingly, and there was a stampede when the dining room doors were flung open.  But, and here I will utter a blasphemy, the cooking was not as good or as imaginative as good English cooking, and there was a particular lack of vegetables with many dishes.
  But what about the visits to vinyards, and the wine tastings, so greatly talked up in the brochures? Well, I freely confess I am not a wine buff. I do drink wine, and I can tell the taste of one wine from another. I can tell which seems to go best with a particular food. I came to the conclusion that French wines are no better than wines from other parts of the world, including Britain, (We have an excellent vinyard at Bruisyard just up the road) and that a great deal of it is just "talking up" to try and impress the tourist. Wines were described as nutty, like a biscuit, fruity, earthy, apple flavoured, honey flavoured, cheeky, and so on, but to a mere wine drinker they all tasted much the same. The "ordinary" red and white wine supplied to us free with our evening dinner was to me just as good as any of the much more expensive varieties on offer.
   It is, I know, a terrible blasphemy, for which I deserve to be guillotined, but I reckon that our British cuisine, in both food and wine, is the equal of any to be found elsewhere in the world, and just because we do not make it a national obsession, and talk about it all the time, it should not be underrated. After all, food is better eaten than talked about!
   On our ship there was a splendid description of the history of France in the 20th Century. It stated
"France was much involved in both the 1st and 2nd World wars. The country was occupied by Germany between 1940 and 1944. France is famous for the great Invasion of Normandy in 1944, when the country was liberated."
  I suppose all countries tend to re-write their own histories when they get the chance! Now, as per family direction, you will be spared a Blog for at least a week!

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