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Hear me, people, French food is a lie

Once a week down in Lavit, a van draws up and the winter dead arise and go forth from farm and town house.

Car lights flash and flicker in the hills as from on high they come, lured from the wood-burner by unholy foreign thoughts and forbidden lusts.

Like we expats at the monthly visit of the fish and chip van in Valence d'Agen, they shuffle their feet and pretend to be invisible once the Grail has been reached.

Their requests are whispered, or pre-order slips passed over as furtively as an illegal bet in past times.

However, as in Valence, when orders are shouted back to the minion/wife on the fat-fryer - "Double mushy peas, large chips, large cod" - there is no escaping the shame.

"Burgeeer foie gras, grande frites; burgeeer chorizo, petite frites; burgeeer cheeese, salade."

Ah yes, the secret shame of France - the burger.

Well, not so secret any more. It has been revealed, much to the horror of middle-class UK francophone, that nearly half of all sandwiches sold in France last year were burgers.

Nine hundred and seventy million burgers were sold, and France is the largest consumer of McDonald's (MacDo, as we say) outside of the United States.

Before its arrival in the sacred home of cuisine there were threats of self-immolation should a Happy Meal smile on French soil.

Comme d'habitude, all protesters eventually crumbled before the multi-billion juggernaut of MacDo and Coca.

Today, even the most traditional of restaurants now stick le burger on the menu and it often outsells the old beloveds of duck, cassoulet, chicken and steak/frites.

Our van, with the racy US name GoBurger, is of course, this being south-west France, a gourmet burger van. Hence the €8 foie gras burger with a galette de pommes de terre, salade et sauce au choix.

A simple cheese burger? The square slice draped over the meat? Not a chance….you can have at least eight cheeses including Camembert, fourme d'Albert and even goat's cheese drizzled with honey.

The burger bun has that cloying, unpleasant sweetness that all processed bread contains here. The meat itself is tasteless because the beef is not matured and comes from aged milk cows.

And, dear God, who on earth wants a burger topped with a slice of fridge-cold, factory-farmed foie gras? (Oh, best seller, so my neighbours obviously do.)

I went once, for the sake of research, naturally, and asked for a "nude" burger. You know, a simple chunk of rounded and patted minced meat stuck between some good, doughy, non-sweet bun. A squeeze of mustard perhaps, bag of chips - sod the salad and the potato cake...

After five minutes of repeating myself as a small queue smirked around me and did much eyebrow wiggling to show their joint disdain, I caved in.

"Okaaaay. Just give me the one with bacon, cheddar, onions, potato cake, and salad. You know, the nude one?"

I thought of saying, now that you've given me all that, scrape it off and leave me with the bun and the meat; I'll pay full price.

But too many similar experiences in America have taught me not to question the chef in an insular small town. I'll maybe tell you one day, but, then again…

Actually, having spent most of my life counting every calorie to prise open my lips, burgers have never featured high on my list of wanton needs.

In fact, since living in France I have had more burgers over several years than I've had in the whole of my real life.

Every so often, when doing the shopping at Castelsarrasin, I drive "thru" McDonald's and sit in the car park disgusting myself as I gorge on a pastiche of the real thing. (I usually end up sharing it with the birds that snub Le Clerc to flock outside the US infiltrator, chirping the Star Spangled Banner as they peck merrily away.)

I do it as a sort of finger up to the veneration of the duck and goose in France Profonde. An "up yours" to often lousy food served with a side order of culinary superiority. A "burger off" to a nation that sniffs at all other cuisines while rarely refining and progressing its own.

Hear me, people. French food is a lie.

Yes, as in the UK, there are superb restaurants and occasionally innovative menus.

But in terms of diverse, exceptional food throughout the country, forget it.

The French, in general, do not do Chinese, Indian, Greek, Iranian etc. And if they try, the results are abysmal.

Their faces are forever turned away from any challenge to their culinary domination.

Perhaps you have to live here, after city life, to realise how dull and predictable meals are. It seems wonderful on a holiday, and for a week it is. But for life?

So, I suggest, that is why even the French hunger for a burger. Their eyes are finally opening.

My, oh my, what would they do if they ever munched on a real, properly-hung chunk of meat in a bun?

Revolt, that's what.

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Food and drink

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