BUNHILL:British garlic-eaters nose ahead of France

AT LAST the Brits are challenging the assumption that, where food is concerned, French is good and English is, well, simply laughable. Remarkably enough the French have accepted the fact. Come late March the grandiosely named Conseil National des Arts Culinaires is teaming up with the more prosaically titled Food from Britain to present a joint nosh-up, a week-long presentation called "The Best of Britain and France".

Perhaps what caused the French to surrender was the fact that people in southern England eat more garlic per head than the people of northern France. This splendid fact comes courtesy of Colin Boswell, who owns a 30-acre garlic farm on the Isle of Wight (at five tons an acre you should be able to smell the stuff on the ferry coming over). Mr Boswell sells 1,500 tons in all, drawing from all over the world to ensure an almost perpetual supply of lovely fresh green garlic. The island even holds a garlic festival.

He attributes the growth in our consumption not to an upsurge in our appetite for aioli but to our taste for two dishes largely unknown in continental Europe: Chicken Kiev and garlic bread.

A direct challenge to the French will arm British chefs against attack from any quarter. It comes from the British-owned Le Chef company, run by Mark Gregory, one of the rapidly proliferating breed of young British chefs. At last week's offputtingly named Hospitality Week Exhibition (held in Birmingham, what a challenge) he showed a range of chef's clothing made of Teflon, presumably to protect the wearer from criticism. To be fair, impregnating clothing (and other items such as oven gloves) with th e stuff does have real advantages, like preventing the smell of stale grease from sticking to clothes.

More of a threat to continental superiority was the first range of Sheffield-made, British-designed chef's knives.

Don't be deterred by the fact that they are "ergonomically designed". This merely means they are less tiring to hold when cutting up the mass of veal we can no longer export.

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