A LEADING American journalist has brought out a French edition of his book which criticises French food: Au Revoir to All That: The Rise and Fall of French Cuisine.
In the book, published in English in 2009 and on sale in eight countries, Michael Steinberger, sounds the alarm about the cooking of a country he sees as his second home.
According to Mr Steinberger, who writes on food in the New York Times and the Financial Times, French cooking is "tired", something he has observed over the last ten years.
"I noticed it in restaurants, where I was seeing more and more tired chefs making a tired cuisine, served on tired tablecloths.
"At the markets of Paris and the provinces that used to delight me, I noticed piles of Spanish tomatoes and Italian courgettes appearing."
Mr Steinberger says he has also been disappointed to see the rise of fast-food, with France becoming McDonald’s second biggest market. Seeing their restaurants was "like seeing peep shows in the Vatican".
Lovers of French food abroad are quicker to get upset about threats to it than are the French, he believes. "I wrote a chapter on raw milk camembert, to describe the anger in Japan and America when there was talk of banning it. In France, there was no violent debate."
The book is a case of being cruel to be kind, he says. "I want France to stay the best place to eat in the world."
Meanwhile, America has become the world’s No1 wine-consuming nation, pushing France into second place.
It is the first time Americans have drunk more wine than the French. The overall US wine market grew two per cent to 330 million cases in 2010: French consumption is nearly 321m cases.
However, France is still well ahead on per capita consumption, with an average 46 litres per year as against the US’s 9.8 litres (about a bottle a month).
The US wine market is worth $30 billion and more than 60 per cent of the wine drunk in the US comes from California, which supplies 241.8m cases.
The biggest-selling variety is chardonnay, which sells $2.03bn worth, followed by cabernet sauvignon on $1.38bn.