Can it be true? To be continental, we must first become more British?

Last week I came across a grotesque new concept referred to in snooty French circles as La Folie Anglaise. This concerned the risible tendency of the British middle-classes constantly to downplay their own cuisine, landscape, weather, sex-lives etc in comparison with those of certain neighbouring countries.

On the face of it, this is all quite obvious. I think most of us admit, in private moments, that French lingerie is better than Yorkshire pudding, for example. A holiday in Tuscany sounds more enticing than a holiday in Torquay. Latins knowing more about the good life than Anglo-Saxons is a cliche as old as viticulture and olive oil production, and anyone who tries to deny it probably has a paranoid complex about the need to keep the Queen on their pound coins as well.

I am not sure if this means that the British lifestyle is, indeed, worse than everybody else's, or if it simply means that they are more self-deprecating than other people. But either way, what worried me about La Folie Anglaise was the tragic contradiction contained in the concept: that a hopeless infatuation for all things Mediterranean was, in fact, every bit as English as grey weather, scones and whipped cream. And it took those horribly sophisticated French to spot it.

In other words - speaking as an Englishman - I am caught in a French- style vice. No matter how crusty I bake my bread, no matter how smelly I cultivate my camembert, no matter how dark I stain my wine carafes and no matter how deeply I gash my kitchen table, all I ever succeed in doing is confirming my fundamental, boorish Englishness.

At this rate I might as well throw away my Italian silk T-shirt collection now and buy a bowler hat, frock-coat and umbrella. You thought that using a pestle and mortar and electric parmesan grater would improve your sex- life? Sorry. Being embarrassed about English cuisine turns out to be nothing more than an essential facet of what it was that made that cuisine so awful in the first place: namely, your Britishness.

I suppose the only sensible reaction really might be to go out and invest in an electric scone mixer, or lie down in a bed of wet stinging nettles in Dorset; or possibly even to go the whole hog and spend a fortnight holidaying in a boarding house in Torquay. Only by acting British, it seems, will I be able to escape from being British. Only by refusing to eat foie gras have I got any hope of emulating the French.

Confused? Depressed? Me too. Unless of course, the French have got it all wrong. Being British, I find that quite impossible to believe.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Guru Careers: Events Coordinator / Junior Events Planner

    £24K + Excellent Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking an Events Coordinator ...

    Royal Yachting Association Cymru Wales: Chief Executive Officer

    Salary 42,000: Royal Yachting Association Cymru Wales: The CEO is responsible ...

    Guru Careers: Marketing Manager / Marketing Communications Manager

    £35-40k (DOE) + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Marketing Communicati...

    Ashdown Group: Technical IT Manager - North London - Growing business

    £40000 - £50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A growing business that has been ope...

    Day In a Page

    Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

    Sun, sex and an anthropological study

    One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
    From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

    Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

    'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
    'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

    Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

    This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
    Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

    Songs from the bell jar

    Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
    How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

    One man's day in high heels

    ...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
    Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

    Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

    Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
    The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

    King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

    The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
    More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

    End of the Aussie brain drain

    More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
    Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

    Can meditation be bad for you?

    Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
    Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

    Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

    Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine
    Letterman's final Late Show: Laughter, but no tears, as David takes his bow after 33 years

    Laughter, but no tears, as Letterman takes his bow after 33 years

    Veteran talkshow host steps down to plaudits from four presidents
    Ivor Novello Awards 2015: Hozier wins with anti-Catholic song 'Take Me To Church' as John Whittingdale leads praise for Black Sabbath

    Hozier's 'blasphemous' song takes Novello award

    Singer joins Ed Sheeran and Clean Bandit in celebration of the best in British and Irish music
    Tequila gold rush: The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product

    Join the tequila gold rush

    The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product
    12 best statement wallpapers

    12 best statement wallpapers

    Make an impact and transform a room with a conversation-starting pattern
    Paul Scholes column: Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?

    Paul Scholes column

    Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?