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Last Updated: Tuesday, 5 July 2005, 15:15 GMT 16:15 UK
British v French in food fight
Jacques Chirac and Tony Blair
Tony Blair kept a diplomatic silence on M Chirac's comments
As if rival Olympic bids and EU rebates had not done enough damage, relations between France and Britain have soured over the quality of their food.

French President Jacques Chirac opened a can of worms by saying British cookery was among the worst in Europe.

Perhaps diplomatically, Tony Blair did not comment.

So the BBC Wales news website asked the owners of a French restaurant in Wales and a British cookery school in France what they thought.

IS FRENCH FOOD BETTER?

Elen Dupuy, who owns the Le Gallois restaurant in Cardiff with her husband Francis, said the French generally had higher standards when it came to food.

"I have spent a lot of time in France, and there is no question the French have better eating habits," she said.

"It is the main thing in their lives and they spend more money on it - they respect local recipes and local produce."

But Lorraine Tomlinson, an expert in vegetarian cuisine who runs a cookery school and guest house near La Rochelle with her husband David, found it more difficult to choose.

"I don't think either is better, you get good food in Britain and in France and you get bad food in both - it is the same in any country you are in."

IS BRITISH FOOD REALLY RUBBISH?

Mrs Dupuy said she could understand where Mr Chirac's reported comments were coming from.

"British produce is very good, but what we do with it is bad - for example there is great fish available on the coastline, but we do not use it," she said.

Francis and Elen Dupuy run Le Gallois
Francis and Elen Dupuy run Le Gallois in Cardiff

"And garlic is not a French thing - we grow it here, but did not use it until we looked in French cookbooks."

She also bemoaned the popularity of ready prepared meals and pizzas, as well as the rise of supermarkets in favour of smaller stores.

But Mrs Tomlinson, who used to run the well-known Tomlins vegetarian restaurant in Penarth, south Wales, argued that the grass was not always greener over the channel, with the Brits certainly ahead on vegetarianism.

"In France, they are where we were about 25 years ago with vegetarians," said Lorraine.

"They don't understand the philosophy - they are not used to it and not many French people are vegetarian."

HOW MUCH DOES FOOD REALLY MATTER?

Chirac is believed to have said about the British that "one cannot trust people whose cuisine is so bad".

Tomlins in France
The Tomlinsons offer cooking holidays near La Rochelle

But is it really that important? Mrs Tomlinson said that was taking it too far, but the French did have a much better attitude to food.

"They spend a long time over eating - it is for socialising, for communicating, and that is what we try to do here too," she said.

And Elen Dupuy agreed that, in France, food had a bigger role in everyday life.

"They spend two hours at a table each day, not just at the weekend - it is part of their lifestyle."

WHAT ABOUT OUR TOP RESTAURANTS?

Mrs Tomlinson said that at the top end of the market, there was no difference between France and Britain.

"There are top quality chefs and top quality ingredients in both - you can't go far wrong," she said.

Mrs Dupuy agreed: "There are some fantastic restaurants in this country, but you have to find them."

But would Mr Chirac agree? Well, he has been given the opportunity to taste for himself.

Llanelli-born Tory leader Michael Howard has challenged the president to restaurants in his back yard.

"I'd like him to come to my constituency, over to Folkestone and Hythe, and I'll take him to some restaurants that will match anything he can see in France," he said.

Watch this space.




SEE ALSO
Blair sidesteps French food fight
05 Jul 05 |  UK Politics
Chirac jokes about British food
04 Jul 05 |  Europe

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