Tuesday, 2 December 2008


Here is Andrew Hussey, presenter of France on a Plate, which aired on BBC4 the other night but deserves a wider showing. Mr Hussey, a clever fellow to be sure, takes his audience on a tour of French culture by means of food - which he clearly enjoys - architecture, and stories of the triumphs of La Belle Epoque and the loss of confidence - national and culinary - that came with the Algerian war. The food was divine, even the Lyonnaise sausage made of cows' stomachs wrapped up inside each other so as to appear in cross section like a Paisley pattern made up in offal. Then there was a vol au vent the size of a pillbox hat and filled with beautiful chunks of meat in a white sauce and topped with a pastry lid so soft that it would undoubtedly have dissolved to air and hot butter on contact with the roof of the mouth. Mr Hussey addresses his audience in a marvellous Scouse accent, switching to perfect French when talking to the battalions of chefs who were the stars of the show. But all is not well, and whereas the stallholders of Les Halles could once provide delightful produce from the empire cheap to Parisians, the country is now in the grip of malbouffe, with small, privately owned eating places closing by the score and McDonald's and Quick opening. All very interesting, and let's hear it for the big guy worth listening to. I'm sure the show will be repeated and can be viewed in the meantime on BBC iPlayer.