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  • One of the things I love about France is the quality of their food (there I go with that quality thing again).

    Wandering around my local supermarkets near home, I look at the standard of the 'fresh' produce, and on each visit, my heart sinks. The fish counter for example, usually has two or three choices of smoked fish, an maybe half a dozen choices of other fish, maybe in fillets, or whole. Shellfish usually consists of a single, half kilo net of mussels and maybe a small pot of prawns.

    There are no fresh scallops, no fresh oysters, no crab, lobster or langoustine and in actual fact, everything they describe as fresh was actually delivered to the store already frozen.

    The 'fresh' meat counter usually has a few burgers, steaks and a choice of about six different joints.

    My local market is barely worth shopping at.

    Compare this to the French supermarkets, and I don't just mean the big Hypermarkets on the edges of large cities, but also the smaller supermarkets in the smaller towns too.

    Their fresh food is really 'Fresh'. Their fish counters are full of mountains of prawns, crevettes, langoustines, purchased by the kilo scoop. Mounds of mussels, baskets or oysters and scallops and clams. The fish is a dozen varieties, all caught and landed that morning. Tanks hold live crabs and lobsters.

    The meat counter too, has a huge variety of joints, beef, pork and lamb as usual, plus other less common cuts of meat such as boar or calf. Chickens, poussins, duck, goose, turkey, quail, all fresh.

    Each Supermarché even has a dedicated section which promotes all kinds of artisanal, locally produced food including cheeses, butters, creams, meat, poultry, vegetables, ciders etc, etc, etc.

    And what is the irony to this tale? In Britain, we rarely eat veal, or boar, and despite us being an island nation, we don't eat much fish. In fact, we export a lot of our produce to France, Spain and other parts of Europe, including milk fed calves for veal. We send some of the best food we produce abroad. And what we are left with is the measly, miserly, miserable leftovers.

    This photo was taken last year on my camping trip in Poitou-Charents. It is a simple meal of veal chops, pan fried with butter, garlic and rosemary with cauliflower cheese. The cauliflower (which is cooking in the pot), and all the other ingredients were from local farmers at the weekly market. The veal too was locally bred, not a UK Import. The two veal chops cost me a very reasonable €3, or about £2.50. The only commercial item was the cheese, but Comté is well worth buying for it's nutty flavour.

    I wish Britain would wake up and realise what we are missing and losing out on.
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