The French Have Some Catching Up to Do
In his blog entry, Is American Food Better Than French?, David Lebovitz compares the increasing use of fresh, local produce in American to the waning practice in France. He lists possible reasons for the "demise of French cooking", such as the 35 hour work week, industrialization, and a resistance to change under the impression that anything French must be superior. While he believes that France is rich with excellent food, he wonders why the use of good produce isn't more common:
French food has always been rooted in the terroir, or regionality of the food, which was the center of its cuisine for centuries. [...] So yes, there's still plenty of exceptional cheeses, wines, sparkling-fresh seafood, chickens that taste like chicken and hand-harvested salts available in France. But when it comes to fruits and vegetables, why is it so hard to get a simple tomato salad in the middle of summer made with sun-ripe French tomatoes? How come every French fry I've been served in the last four years is pale, completely limp and undersalted, dumped from a bag of previously frozen sticks, instead of being sliced from the great potatoes that Parmentier propagated for our enjoyment? Are there everyday restaurants that feature vegetables that are locally-grown and cooked simply with care?
David focuses on restaurants and markets in San Francisco; his idea of fresh produce being easily accessible and used by restaurants doesn't necessarily apply to the entire country. However, I was happy to find that there was enough demand to supply my nearest Whole Foods with flavorful, non-uniform, locally grown strawberries (which sat next to the large industrial variety) that I wouldn't be able to find at my neighborhood Pathmark or ShopRite. Do the French need to focus more on supplying their restaurants and consumers with fresh, local produce?