Terry Wogan column

From his holiday home in the Gers, our columnist muses on the great divide between britain and France when it comes to food and drink

Surely it can’t be too much to hope that this Spring and into Summer, the sun will at least peek furtively from behind the clouds, and give the male of the species his hour of glory amid the charcoal and the smoke, to produce the traditional sausage, burned to a crisp on the outside, and raw on the inside, the similarly charred chicken, so dangerously pink behind the skin, the hamburger cooked to the consistency of a paving-stone. Ah, the joy of eating in the open air, everything tastes so much better. It’s why, on holiday abroad, in sunnier climes, even that boring Greek salad, and those tough stuffed vine-leaves, seem delightful, as we quaff the local wine with it’s elusive hint of tarmacadam.

When we bring it home,and pour a glass of reminiscence on a dull autumn day,it doesn’t seem to have travelled all that well,any more than the Ouzo,or the Pernod and lovely little sparkling rosé we discovered in the hills behind Villefranche. And only a fool tries to recapture those lazy, hazy days, with a Bacardi and coke in the summer rains of home. Even “Pousse Rapiere” the heady mixture of orange liqueur and sparkling wine, native to our beloved Gers, and a cheering addition to any dejeuner there, doesn’t lift the spirits in the same way in the Thames Valley.

Good friends of ours,visiting France,became entranced with the daily fresh baguette and croissant,with a simple breakfast of local ham and figs. On return to their rural Irish home, they thought to repeat the pleasure. On their first morning at home, the husband came back from an early visit to their local shop, carrying with him a couple of tomatoes, a packet of cooked ham, and a sliced pan loaf.” It was as close as I could get”, he apologised. On my friends request for the more exotic provender of his holidays,the shopkeeper had smiled, and said, ”Sure, if we had food like that, we’d be eating it ourselves”.

Apart from La Manche,nothing separates our two great nations more than food and drink. Our delightful little supermarket, ”Huit a Huit”, caters for every whim, but, in flagrant and typically French disdain for it’s proclaimed twelve hour opening hours, closes for lunch between noon and two in the afternoon. The British snatch a sandwich and a coffee on the run at lunchtime, but all France must sit down to lunch. The French, with baguette and croissant, demand their bread fresh daily, while the British will keep a sliced white loaf in the bread bin until the crusts grow green. The French buy long life milk in the supermarket; the British insist it be delivered daily,fresh,to their doors. The British allow great wines to sit in their cellars, maturing and improving with age, while the French smile knowingly drink their wine when it’s younger, and even to the astonishment of their British friends, pour red wine without bringing it to room temperature, and sometimes, chill it!

All together, now, Vive La Différence!