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 !!
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.
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.
Shopping for Chinon wines. (Click to enlarge!)
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.
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 !!