Premier, is there actually a boulangerie or patisserie in France these days that doesn’t feel the need to call itself ‘artisanale’? Buggered if we could find one. And the thing is, weren’t they all artisanale before they felt the need to say so? The drivel-down of corporate bullshit is plainly fucking up the French language as much as our own, so at least that’s something.
Much more importantly, where are the frites? We ate out across half of Southern France without encountering any, and we were on the look-out tout le temps. This vexes me, for le frite is one of France’s greatest cultural gifts, up there with impressionism, existentialism and the sweat dripping from a dusky maiden’s unshaved armpits as she leans smoking out of a garret window in the fifth arrondisement. And great frites don’t travel. You have to go to them. Mon Plaisir in London is the only place I’ve ever managed to source them otherwise.
Well, sadly I have to report that Le French Frite est Mort. Karin’s scene in Paris, in Farewell Trip, where Ruth orders steak frites with little more than a shrug and a wave of her hand would these days be met with a non, seulement pommes duchesse, whatever the fuck they are – from a frozen package mainly.
Every time I ordered something which looked like it must come with fries – entrecote, onglet, maigret du canard – I’d ask hopefully “avec frites?” (possibly the only French I used all holiday, freewheeling as I was behind Mike and Anne’s eloquence and Jo’s Spanish) only for the waiter to reply – non, gratin dauphinoise; non, pommes anna; non, pommes lyonnaise; non, legumes et salade. Yes, we have no potatoes. Once I was even served slightly burnt hand-made crisps with my sardines. Ce que le baiser?
We did get a few frites, c’est vrai, but always a la maison, usually soggy, olive oil soaked, bastard pommes de bleugh, basically the French equivalent of “chunky chips”. Honestly. A little bit of mon amour avec toutes les choses francaises est mort. Aigues-Mortes. Dirty foreign bastards...