Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Jacques, Vous Avez Raison

British comedians often make jokes against the French, often quite vicious ones. Quite recently I saw the phrase 'Nazi collaborators' get a big laugh.
Yet Jacques Chirac makes some light-hearted comments in private about British food and there's a huge brouhaha.
But what Chirac said was essentially true.

The media have been wheeling out various high profile British chefs in defence of our gastronomic standards. But this is to miss the crucial point: ordinary, everyday food as eaten by the majority of the British is very bad. Away from the row over Chirac's comments, the massive problem of poor diets and obesity is never out of the news. Have we already forgotten the horrific revelations in Jamie Oliver's campaign on school dinners?
The Oliver campaign prompted people to take a look at the superb school meals served in France. Some French schools even give parents a print-out of the menus for the whole school year so they don't give little Pierre and Marie-Claire the same meals in the evening that they had at lunchtime at school.

The British and French have a totally different attitude to food, a fact discovered by generations of French children who have come to Britain on exchange visits. The dubious delights of Birds Eye and Bernard Matthews give many of them a lifelong dislike of British food and sometimes of Britain itself.
It's true that cookery programmes and cookery books have never been more popular but this is cooking as entertainment and something you do for a special occasion. Most British people are simply not prepared to invest the time in lengthy food preparation to prepare good quality, fresh, healthy meals on a daily basis. The French are and we should respect them for it.


I said recently that casting directors should exercise more caution, after seeing Coronation Street's detective pop up as a criminal in The Bill.
But here's something even more extraordinary from last night's Coronation Street.
A frequently shown commercial for one of the great probiotic scams shows a young boy standing outside a school waiting for his mother to collect him.
The mother, having ingested vast amounts of 'good bacteria', appears on roller skates and in a crash helmet and zooms around the playground at 40 miles per hour.
Cut to last night's Corrie. The same boy is standing outside a school waiting to be collected.
(Casting Director: have you still got the uniform from the probiotic commercial? That will save wardrobe getting you one).

This time he's collected by Claire from Streetcars, in a taxi rather than on roller skates. But he does the same puzzled look as when he saw his mother on roller skates. Maybe puzzled looks are this 12 year old's specialty and are mentioned in his Spotlight Directory entry. He might build a whole career around them. If he learns to scratch his head as well he could take over from Charlie in Casualty one day.
But once again this thoughtless piece of casting had me inventing my own sub-plot. Well, I had no choice. Corrie never explained why the bemused son of Probiotic Woman was suddenly being collected from school in a Weatherfield taxi.
The sad truth is that Social Services had sent the taxi to take him to a foster home because his mother was now in The Priory, heavily sedated, after gangsta tripping on probiotic milk drinks and speed skating round Sainsbury's singing 'Mmm, Danone.'
Poor little blighter.

BBC executives play a constant game of musical chairs but did you know that they also play their own private version of Changing Rooms?
I discovered this from an interview with the new head of children's television in yesterday's Guardian.
Her predecessor had apparently turned her office into a cosy front room, complete with a fireplace.
The new woman has "smartly restyled it, with stripped hard wood floor, leather sofas and a sleek desk."
Good to know that our constantly rising licence fee is allowing these people to indulge their tastes in interior design.
I know it's small change when children's TV alone has a budget of £100 million. But how many people at the less glitzy end of the public sector would be allowed to give their offices frequent, expensive makeovers on taxpayers' money?


At 2:36 PM, Blogger cello said...

Careful now, Willie. There was a distinct whiff of Daily Mail about your BBC gripe. I'm with Marx on this one. I think all public service staff deserve to work in decent surroundings, so rather than knock the BBC I think we should campaign for teachers and council staff to be treated with respect.

It has been "scientifically proven" that environment has a significant effect on motivation and mood, and ultimately therefore on output and efficiency.

I am with you on the food issue though. Part of the reason we grow vegetables is so our son can develop proper taste buds. The difference between a home-grown carrot and a supermarket carrot, even an organic one, is quite terrifying. Helping to grow food means he then wants to eat it, so, unlike his pals, he is an enthusiastic consumer of broccoli, asparagus, beetroot, carrots, peas, beans(broad and other)artichokes,lettuce, cucumber, onions, parsnip and brussel sprouts (because they make you fart). Only a dutiful consumer of cauliflower and cabbage,it's true, but my theory is the smell is hard for sensitive noses to take. Courgettes are the only thing he won't touch for some strange reason. But I dread him going to his friends where he is served absolute shite. Jamie's battle was as much with the parents and home life as the school. That's where food expectations are created and that's what the French do so well. Transport caffs, factory canteens all have high standards.

And probiotic drinks. Complete scam. Not enough in one to make any difference whatsoever. You just have to watch those food companies all the time.

At 3:07 PM, Blogger Geoff said...

Those probiotic junkies need a good colonic. And speaking of irrigation, Willie, what happened to Peter the frog?

At 6:18 PM, Blogger Willie Lupin said...

cello, I'm not suggesting BBC execs should work in squalor. But installing and ripping out mock fireplaces every 18 months or so on the proceeds of a regressive tax that many people struggle to pay seems a bit profligate. Why can't they make do with a family photo and a spider plant like the rest of us?

Re. food: I agree with all you say and your son is extremely lucky. As you know, the battle is also with the food industry. Shovel shite down your throat and then try to repair the damage with probiotic drinks. I said something about those on 26th October last. It's a scandal that companies can get away with this unscientific nonsense.

Geoff, no news of Peter the Frog, partly because I'm confined to barracks with a bad cold (or 'flu' as most of us call them now). Only have the strength to do a little light blogging.
Scarcely able to smoke, so if any of you disagree with me I'll probably bite your frigging heads off. LOL. But don't let that put you off.

At 8:31 PM, Blogger james henry said...

Still, good to know they can't afford to develop new writers for the right reasons...


At 12:08 AM, Blogger portuguesa nova said...

I never understand why people are always insulting British food when the crap we eat in the US has gotta be light years worse.

I grew up on frozen, processed potato products, canned mushy, starchy veggies, processed cheap meats, canned sauces on everything, no spices whatsoever, 3-5 cans of soda a day...and that was the stuff my mom (a horticulturalist by trade, no less!) made at home. What the government served up in public school was far worse.

Also, I recently asked to have a new light installed in my cubicle and the ambitious request required the signatures of no less than three higher-ups. It took two months to get the light.

At 9:49 PM, Blogger portuguesa nova said...

You MUST post something to let us know you're okay...I examined a map for 20 minutes today trying to figure out if "London" qualifies a south central England.

At 11:41 PM, Anonymous Rex said...

Yes, concerned about your eight-day silence, Willie. Hope it means no more than that you’re feeling a bit off-colour, and/or getting your breath back as a blogger. But don’t think you’re not missed.

At 8:29 AM, Blogger Wyndham said...

Willie, I haven't been reading for long but I've become a little bit addicted. Please post soon.

At 5:17 PM, Blogger Steve said...

Hey Willie, where are you?

At 11:34 AM, Blogger Geoff said...

Please say you're just giving us newer readers a chance to catch up with your back catalogue, Willie.

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