It’s different

In Uncategorized on April 22, 2011 by grahamharrowell

Up at the doctor’s surgery for the routine checks. On top of the tests there are the usual questions about exercise, smoking and alcohol. “Don’t forget to eat lots of fresh fruit and vegetables.”

What? Have you tried getting fresh vegetables and salad round here? I’ve found just one greengrocer, who seems to sell more bedding plants than lettuce. The supermarkets insist on selling everything wrapped up in several layers of plastic which serves mainly to conceal the poor quality, up the price and overload the recycling bin. On top of that, raking through the shelves for some seasonal produce (English asparagus) I have to discard all the asparagus that someone has decided to fly all the way from Peru!

This suggests to me that the supermarkets are not really interested in my health.

Another thing that’s hard to find is a decent bit of cheese. Whilst we’ve been away the decent local cheesemonger seems to have disappeared (eloped with the greengrocer, perhaps) and the two local “delicatessen” have a small and very poor and limited selection. Fortunately Booths, the great northern supermarket sells, along with a fine range of beer and wine, some decent cheese. Let’s get some.

There is, between the hard and soft cheeses, a display of quite reasonable unpastuerised cheeses from UK and the continent. I’ve spent some time and effort trying to persuade French people that we can produce good cheese and wine. It’s very difficult getting them to make the first tentative step and taste either. In the case of wine, a blind tasting can easily have the Frenchman choose the English wine as the best. When informed of this fact he will pull a face and say, “Ah yes, but I’ve just caught the slightly disagreeable aftertaste. If it weren’t for that it would be as good as French.”

Cheese is much easier. There are now any number of good English cheeses that the French can’t even get hold of but would love. (At the same time Sainsburys sell something they call “Cornish Brie” which at a quid a lump isn’t worth unwrapping.)

So, having ordered my unpasteurised Comté, Morbier, Cheshire and Stilton, I am shocked and surprised when the sales assistant demands to know who I am going to share it with. “You’re not going to give this to any pregnant woman, old aged pensioners or children, are you?” he asks accusingly. “What?” is my best witty riposte. “It can cause miscarriages,” he tells me. I ask whether there is anyone at the booze section warning people not to drink their wine beers and spirits, partcularly in the light of a damning report out that very morning. I’m about to ask why, if they’re so interested in my health, they haven’t any decent veg and salad on sale but QOTW ushers me away from the counter and tells me to shut up.

So, if unpasteurised cheese is so dangerous how is it, in a country which De Gaulle is quoted as saying was impossible to govern because it produced over 300 different cheeses, that there are any French people at all? Surely, given the levels of consumption of unpasteurised cheeses, hardly any pregnancies would come to term. I haven’t been able to find any data on comparative rates for the UK and France but one thing I did learn was that consumption of caffeine is a significant risk factor during pregnancy, so I think Mr Booth might well deploy some staff to the tea and coffee section and advise customers not to buy anything there.

As I’ve said before, it’s different in different countries. In the UK the anti-unpasteurised milk lobby driven by big industry and those who would rather not practice good dairy hygiene but rely instead on giving everything a good boiling at the factory has prevailed. In France they rely on good hygiene from the farm to the plate. I know which I prefer.

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