Who has the right to judge another's taste, and what is wrong with tomato ketchup?

It is received wisdom on both sides of the channel that French cuisine is better than English and that if it is done in a French way that this is 'correct'.

I don't believe that when it comes to matters of the taste buds that anyone can ever say that their opinion on food is the correct or better or right way to do things. If you prefer your eggs well cooked rather than loosely scrambled, that is your prerogative. As it is if you prefer your steak bien cuit as opposed to rare. Scholars of food may tell you that the juices flow better in a rare steak and one gets more flavour from it, but eating encompasses the whole experience of textures as well as taste. If you prefer it cooked to a crisp surely that is your prerogative. Personally, I think a fatty steak cooked over a hot barbecue so as it is near charred on the outside but pink inside is the best combination - but that is merely my preference. I don't claim to be 'correct' on the issue.

The only comment that may fairly be passed about someone's taste, surely, is that it is a little odd or unusual - by which we mean it is a taste or opinion not popularly held. The right to (come close to) saying that this taste or opinion is 'wrong' is that very few people share it..... not many people would say that Mother's Pride plastic white bread is any comparison to a fresh baked stick from your local boulangerie. Similarly, regardless of whether you prefer English cheese or French cheese (or mustards) not many would say that American cheese or mustard is any comparison to either English or French. It is fair to say anyone who expresses such a preference is a little odd....

But where does ketchup fit into this philosophy of taste ? We all tell our children not to eat it (so much) and consider it an affront to the chef to drown out their care in cooking the food with an all encompassing taste in tomato.

However, what is really the difference between vinaigrette or mayo and ketchup ? Certainly the ones we commonly buy in the supermarket are all (ketchup / mayo / vinaig..) artifacial. Ketchup (even home made) is just tomatoes, vinegar, sugar and spices. It isn't so different to vinaigrette...so why is it acceptable to drown out the taste of virtually every salad in France with strong dijon infused vinaigrette or mayo, but wrong to apply a dab of ketchup.

Moreover, applying the test above of taste, ketchup must be the most popular condiment on the planet - how can anyone say that such a large majority is wrong - accuse them of being philistines even...?

For now I shall be enjoying my steak hache medium to well done, with some frites and a dash of ketchup on the side....dare you join me in this admission ?

Love it too just never heard it called that. Have a great christmas

I don't know how the name originated. It was always like that in our family. Fried eggs with runny yolks, tomato sauce between two toasted slices of bread. I prefer the complet here in France. Sinful buty a great 5 minute pick me up!

Can you imagine how those turkeys were raised?

They would be totally indoor raised and packed, so at the end they would hardly be able to move. Also, the white turkeys are very fast growing and the birds often have trouble supporting their weight as their legs are not sufficiently developed.

Animal welfare is not high on the French agenda.

Bresse chickens are raised here in 71. They have to be raised to a minimum age and are totally free range. Having said that, I think someone was taking ther proverbial at that ptrce!

Forgive my ignorance but what is an 'Egg Banjo'?

Here in the Monts d'Arree in Finistere you can find quite a few excellent menu ouvriers for about 11 euros, unlimited wine included. There are a minimum of three and perhaps four courses. The food usually is fairly simple but tasty and satisfying. I recommend:

Restaurant Le Seneschal Srignac

Restaurant Bolazec

Menez Bras just south of Huelgoat on the Huelgoat/Pleyben Road and just off the Carhaix/Moraix, Sizun axe

I must admit never having asked in these restaurants for tomato sauce but they can probably supply it as children are catered for (not that tomato sauce is childish in my estimation!).


I normally feel the urge to club the litle 'mockney' pillock, but Jamie Oliver has just run a series about British Food. It was quite good, and is no doubt being repeated endlessly. The theme is how many of the dishes we regards as British Classics we have in fact imported from elsewhere: fish & chips (east european jews), christmas cake (spice islands), smoked hadock (Norway) etc. etc. even haggis is imported apparently ! Country's favourite dish: Chicken Tikka Massala.

I think it says a lot about us that we are as open to new ideas as we are.

Oh, by the way, my father in law is a traditional sikh and often wants 'authentic' Indian food. However, I notice he puts ketchup on everything too.......


I love the article - another example of the French authorities working against market forces to impose their impression of the French way of life on their proletariat....why are they trying to ensure that traditional recipes are passed down the generations anyway - I thought that the national dish was pizza anyway ....?

As regards the English vs French debate, I think that the food in the UK was pretty awful 15-20 years ago but then it went through a revolution and now the quality is pretty unbeatable (and good value). French restaurants can be very hit or miss and I don't understand why (for example) you can have an excellent restaurant selling a fantastic menu for €13.50 yet 100 metres down the road somewhere selling microwaved lasagne at the same price yet each restaurant is equally full !

I'll give our hosts credit on one thing though: they do turn the simplest of meals into a 'performance'. For relatively little money you can walk out having had a four course meal. The entree may have been quite simple, but dressed nicely. The main undoubtedly small, but sufficient. But the whole process of several courses over a couple of hours is far more satisfying than one big plate of meat and veg....

....the only problem is that they make a performance even when going to McD's: they can't seem to grasp the simplicity of the concept ! They also insist on something called 'sauce frites" (as well as ketchup)..

The one sin that I cannot get over in France however is the proliferation of tinned vegetables. How can any self-respecting restauranteur serve up this tasteless pulp (whichever veg it claims to be) ? Often I get the impression it is put on the plate as a token gesture towards a 'complete' meal (not that it can have any nutirional value left in it after it has been soaked in brine for 2 years).

Another terrible faux pas are ready made croques. They are everywhere in cafes now. I was in a cafe in Rouen a year ago and ordered from the "speciality" croque menu but asked for it to be made without the aubergines that were listed. They explained that this wasn't possible because it was a ready made croque from a packet and they couldn't remove the offending veg..... A READY MADE croque from a cafe in France ! I was surprised that the cultural police hadn't been around and shut them down. How difficult can it be to make a toasted sarnie ?!? Unsurprisingly it needed a dollop of ketchup on it when it arrived..........

in intermarché today[2o dec] found turkeys from 11€ up to 45€ for a reasonable size bird.. Hey!!..defy the food police!!.. I love double pie and mash[being an eastender] with lashings of spicy vinegar, can't stand jellied eels or rubbery whelks.. but they sell by the million. I live near a small town, recently a chinese and vietnamese resto opened and they are very popular.. albeit the chinese had to close for 6 months[amid rumours of a dog found in freezer].. Down here in Dordogne it's duck and confit in abundance,, if you think 80 dabs for a bird was expensive.. 2 years ago I saw 2 "Bresse" chickens in the poultry section of Auchan.. 110€ and 108€ each!!! and only about 2kg at that!! During summer, I was at a local evening event with a BBQ, my steak was on the gridlle for 30secs each side.. they tried to give it to me, i politely refused and asked "bien cuit"..another 30 secs each side and another refusal, I could see this guy getting more frazzled than my steak, almost protesting it was done, then his other "chefs" joined the condemnation of my choice.. I love my meat well done.. usually i say "cremated".. those who know me are obliging.. these guys were steak snobs..i was making them cry!! after 5 minutes i relented and let them serve it..as i walked away, i heard pu**** !! an ironic twist.. 2 of my friends had their steaks from the same stall,, uncooked, and subsequently had gippy tum for a few days.. burn it I say, burn it!! When I moved here, I bought a supersize tin of dry Colmans mustard.. it remains unopened, i like the Amora mustard just fine. We're all foodies in our own ways!!

The great Ketchup debate! That's why I didn't know whether to laugh or cry when I read this http://newsfeed.time.com/2011/10/04/french-schools-are-rationing-ketchup-to-keep-their-children-french/. Considering the relatively small "dollop" people put on the side of their plate, I'd be more worried about the butter and cream content of the food itself!

btw, americans make a LOT of wonderful 'boutique' cheeses and mustards, such as blues, monterrey jack, various cheddar types, many goat cheeses, cream cheeses and many many more. mustards are often infused with herbs or even flowers, not to mention the whole hot theme (cheeses, such as monterrey jack, come in various hot pepper varieties). american cheeses have won many awards; you might research on the internet. it makes sense when you think what big milk producers americans are and how we readily borrow and adapt ideas from other cuisines, as brits do. also, think of american ice cream! like the brits, americans love pickles of all sorts, unlike the french, who basically eat just cornichons. how boring!! plus they are too sour for me.

With English mustard. Yum.

Put one on the barbie for me Richard - with ketchup.

Seems a fair point of view to me.

i have lived in france for 11 years and am originally from san francisco, the gourment capital of the usa. i can make french classical cooking and pastries as well as american and italian cuisine at the same level. my mother had a famous cooking school in s.f. and specialised in italian cooking, mediterranean cooking, and middle eastern cooking.

quite frankly, i find french food grossly overrated and stodgy. the french for some reason are terrified of change in general. i am sick of seeing the same items served all the time and the same pastries in every shop. these can never vary! try to find an eclair with chantilly instead of pastry cream. try to find a chicken breast sold with the skin on. try to find tangerines, tangelos, manderine oranges. try to find german sausages and cheeses or most italian sausage products or most dutch cheeses other than industrial edam and gouda, and try to find british sausages and cheeses except for, fairly recently, bog standard cheddar. and where are pork roasts with crackling or roast hams?

and please, god tell me, why did i have to pay nearly 80e for a 4 kg turkey????? i see this costs £10 in various shops in the uk, and in the usa a regular supermarket turkey is 40 or 50cents a pound (!), tripling for a higher quality one - still a gift price! - speaking of which, turkeys are sometimes given by stores if you purchase, say, $100 in groceries.#

does anyone know of cheaper sources for a turkey here??

anyway, i much prefer american, italian, and yes, british food to french food. the anglophone countries are especially open to international foods, too. the french should stop being such snobs!

Fish and Chip fans might like to help me get them more established in France.

Read my blog post here

I am not a fan of ketchup, it is far too sweet for my taste, my husband puts it on his food to wind me up!!

We have stopped going to a restaurant that uses a vinaigrette that completely drowns out the taste of anything that is put near it. They even serve it on a foie gras salad and when I pointed out that it was far too strong for that, I got the gallic shrug. Of course, they will still say that french food is better than any other cuisine, even though they probably have never eaten anything else. This from a nation that doesn' even hang their beef for anything like the amount of time it deserves.

Personal taste is exactly that, but when a chef has created a dish to combine, season and marry all the flavours to their best effect, it is impolite to drown the food with anything else.

"Les goûts et les couleurs ne se discutent pas" as I'm regularly reminded.

That aside, when I ask for a steak "à point" I never know quite what I'm going to get as chefs' interpretations vary from damn near rare to faintly pink on the inside. I complained bitterly in a one-star restaurant that what the chef thought was "à point" I called rare. So rare that it was as cold in the centre as if I'd eaten it straight out of the fridge. I don't mind rare meat but I hate cold food of all kinds when it's meant to be hot. During that same meal I was served scallops in a sort of pumpkin soup which should have been delicious. The scallops were raw and the soup cold. I think the idea was that the hot soup would lightly cook the scallops. I complained after the meal and was told basically that I was a gastronomic idiot, that this was a chaud-froid dish. For that to be true something should have been hot, I replied. They were not amused and we've never set foot in the restaurant again.

My wife works in the fish smoking industry and practically all salmon in France is imported. Most langoustines and spider crabs come from the UK (OK Scotland for those pedants amongst us) and the most Brits have wobblies when it come to seafood. My 2 1/2 yr old love mussels, crab, oysters etc but she's a francophone Brit! Unfarmed trout is very difficult to find as the rivers have been poisoned by excess plantation of pine trees and of course nitrates. I can remember catching decent trout here in the 70s- no longer!

Last week I invited a Dutch couple and a French lady to lunch. The French lady had previously told me that her Father always said that they should only ever eat French food as it supported the French economy - fair enough. However, knowing that they all love seafood I made a smoked salmon and prawn cocktail for starter and took the risk of serving it with triangles of Warburton's Wholemeal from the English shop. All I can say is that none of them could get enough of it! I offered a baguette also, but I was the only one who ate any of it!