3 AUGUST 1991, Page 27

Vive la cuisine francaise

Sir: I have great respect for the British and their ways. However, I really could not let A. N. Matthews's well argued but erroneous defence of Britain's food in comparison to France's pass without some comment (Letters, 29 June).

Mr — or Mrs — Matthews's letter, and the importance it is accorded by The Spectator, reflect a new, increasingly wide- spread attitude amongst your compatriots: the British have become very 'touchy' whenever one discusses their nation's food.

When I first visited England almost 30 years ago, those I met habitually apolo- gised — and not merely through modesty — for the plainness of the dishes I was served. The meats and fish mentioned by A. N. Matthews, the new appearances made in your supermarkets since the 1960s — salami, kiwi fruit, `French' bread, Bava- rian 'Brie' — do not, alas, constitute a general improvement in cuisine (which, in any case, depends not only on the ingred- ients but also on what happens to them in the kitchen). As we all know, if we're honest, to compare British and French cuisine would be rather like comparing Bognor Regis and Nice for your holidays. Why can't the British accept — as they did in the past that while they do some things better than we French, cookery is not one of them?

We respect your great traditions: France cannot rival Shakespeare, the Burberry `Barbara Bush came in and she liked the stuff.' trench-coat, your garden parties, British savoir-vivre in general; may we ask you to respect ours?

Michel Francis 9 Villa St Michel, 75018 Paris,