May 2, 2012

DIFFERENCES

menu

The lunch menu at the Auberge du Val de Vienne, Sazilly. 

5.  Food and wine.

I am not of the opinion that the UK is the gastronomic wasteland that some people would say it is.

Quite the contrary, in fact.  There are lots of excellent restaurants and pubs within a one hour drive of our home in Derbyshire where you can eat really well.  You can get traditional English meals and food based on the cooking from all over the world.  Most of it is either good or very good.  Sadly there is also a lot of junk food, fast food and places selling soggy cabbage and tasteless carrots to go with the “two eat for ten pounds” specials – we avoid all those !!

lunch menu2 My dessert in Sazilly.

The price of eating out in the UK is very similar to in France, I think.  You can choose to eat cheaply or splash out on something a bit special and the cost is comparable.  The difference is often in the wine list.  You would be hard pressed to find affordable good French wine in many UK restaurants but you would find plenty of new world wines on offer.

The cost of food shopping is probably also similar.  The difference I notice (or think I notice) is that in the UK you will find aisles and aisles of supermarket shelves devoted to junk food or ready-meals, and very little local produce.  My impression is that in France it is the reverse.

Maybe I’m wrong, but in France I think I see more small independent shops selling locally produced meat and veg – and largely produce that is in season.  The markets are an absolute joy to behold.  In the UK you can get anything you want at any time of year - food that has often been transported half way round the world, but if you want good local produce you have to seek it out and often pay a premium for it.

lunch menu3 Nick’s starter in Pouzay.

Cooking and eating at home seem to be different, too.  My impression is that mealtimes are still important to the French whereas in the UK a higher proportion of families eat ready meals and junk food, which is all very odd when you consider how many cookery programmes there are on UK TV.  English families no longer seem to sit down to eat together but feed in relays, to fit in with all their other activities, as if food is no longer a priority.

winetasting

Shopping for Chinon wines. (Click to enlarge!)

winetasting2

When it comes to wine, what can I say?  Within an hour’s drive of Le Grand-Pressigny we can visit scores of vineyards and taste the wines before buying.  It’s absolutely glorious.  In Derbyshire there is nothing like that at all.  Unless you like real ale.  If you are very lucky a pub landlord will give you a little taste in a small glass of a beer you might like to try – if you wanted to try two or three, he would probably think you were taking the mickey.

winetasting2

A vineyard at Panzoult.

Eating in France is for us still an ongoing adventure. We enjoy food shopping and cooking for ourselves as much as we enjoy eating out. I dare say that one day I might miss the opportunity to nip out for a curry, an Italian or a Chinese meal - but I can live without an all-day breakfast at 4o’clock in the afternoon and wouldn’t miss McDonalds at all !!

20 comments:

  1. Enjoying the theme of differences.

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    1. Leon, I'm glad you're enjoying !!

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  2. Mmmmmm -- it all looks so good -- my psyche is getting ready for the yearly jaunt down to the Lot and Summer! (I do hope it stops raining by then...)

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    1. Broad, the rain can't go on for ever .... can it ??!!

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    2. Best not to answer that! ;-)

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  3. I so agree with you about the decline in sit-down mealtimes for many British families, but on local produce I think it depends where you are in the UK, as in France. We actually have a local vineyard near us in Mid-Wales, but its produce is rather pricey to say the least, so our wine cellar is stock with French wine from our annual buying spree. :-)

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    1. Perpetua, same here, we bring all our wine supplies back from the Loire.

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  4. I agree that if you want good local produce in the UK you have to seek it out. You have to be prepared to arrange your life around the farmers' market. I would disagree though that you pay any more at the farmers' market if you compare genuinely like with like. Value added artisanal products are much more expensive at the farmers' market than their supposed equivalents at the supermarket, but it is often a case of you get what you pay for. I always found that for fresh produce (meat, fruit and veg) the prices were more or less the same but the difference in quality was astronomical. I shopped once a week at whichever farmers market was most convenient to my work for 10 years in the UK. The difference in quality is not quite so marked in France and you need to know who is local and who is buying from a wholesaler. Each supermarket has a local buyer here, but since I live in the Touraine and shop just over the border in Poitou-Charentes, the local produce will be from Poitou-Charentes, not the Touraine.

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    1. Susan, the farm shops near us that sell all the produce we used to take for granted when I was a child - locally reared beef and lamb for example - charge a lot for it, but it is often worth it. I think we have all got used to the mass-produced cheap food on offer in the supermarkets and forget that it's not necessarily the best.
      We tend to go for the best we can afford and have less of it, rather than the cheapest we can get.

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  5. "We tend to go for the best we can afford and have less of it, rather than the cheapest we can get".

    This is our take too, Jean. Interesting post.

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    1. Gaynor, this is how I was brought up. My parents were not at all well off but would never buy poor quality food. We filled up on home grown veg with a little good meat.

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  6. I've just finished supper, and already I'm hungry (after reading this).

    Good produce can be challenging to find on this side of the pond. We have a farmers' market not far from our place, and frequent it during the summer. Winter is a different matter. The produce imported from wherever is often pretty scruffy.

    We prefer quality in our food, particularly our produce. There are less expensive cuts of meat which can be improved by good herbs and spices, and slow cooking, though I'm just starting to learn about that.

    Bon appetite.

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    1. Bear, slow cooking was the norm when I was a child. My mother's slow cooked shoulder of lamb and my grandmother's beef stew were fabulous. I didn't realise they were anything special at the time but I now know that they were.

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  7. my goodness have I been a dimwit!
    I stop by regularly 'hoping you would post' but all i get is the entry with the snow shovel. Tonight it dawns on me I have as a bookmark not your blog but that entry.
    You probably think I disappeared, when in fact I am just stupid.

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    1. Spo, at least you got there in the end - that's what counts !! A true dimwit would not have worked it out !!

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    2. with that in mind - how about posting something now ? hohoho

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    3. Any minute now !!....watch this space !!

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  8. I find that most of the supermarkets around us sell mostly local but there are some fruits and veg from Spain. If we want imported we usually find that Lidl is where you will get it. We still love S.African wines (my taste has not changed) and there are some excellent ones in Lidl very cheap. Generally though we buy local foods and we find eating out is much cheaper here, but then we usually go out lunch time and use the truckers restaurants which are excellent value. Diane

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    1. Diane, lunchtime is definitely the right time to eat out. The truckers restaurants do a cracking lunch for a great price. The posh restaurants also usually do a lunchtime menu which is just as good as the evening one but lighter and much cheaper.

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    2. Ah les Routiers? Rick Stein is a big advocate of them and the quality food at a reasonable price.

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