Chirac Sparks Cross-Channel Food Fight
LONDON – French President Jacques Chirac's (search) low opinion of British cuisine, which he reportedly dubbed the worst in Europe after Finland, has started a food fight with London and sparked the wrath of Britain's press.
London's newspapers, which regularly take offense at the French, lashed out at Chirac's jokes on the nation's cuisine, with the Guardian's food critic writing Tuesday that "a man full of bile is not fit to pronounce on food."
The French newspaper Liberation reported Monday that Chirac had made the insulting remarks about food in London during a conversation with German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder (search) and Russian President Vladimir Putin (search) on Sunday.
"We can't trust people who have such bad food," Chirac was quoted as saying.
He reportedly added that only Finland had worse food in Europe, and that mad cow disease (search) was Britain's sole contribution to European agriculture.
Blair, who was in Singapore pressing London's bid for the 2012 Olympics, did not comment directly.
But when asked Monday whether the G-8 summit starting Wednesday would be an anticlimax after the Olympic decision, he said: "I won't say the G-8 summit would be an anticlimax to it because that would be undiplomatic and I know when I go there I will be in the presence of very diplomatic people."
Schroeder said Tuesday he expected to get "a decent steak" at the summit, but otherwise steered away from comment.
Britain's newspapers, however, eagerly rose to the bait.
"Don't talk crepe, Jacques!" scorned The Sun.
"Chirac's bad taste jokes on Britain plunge relations into the freezer," said a sub-headline on the front of the Daily Mail.
"Take one unpopular president, a brace of struggling statesmen and a couple of global summits. Heat up a hoary national stereotype, leaven with wit, sit back and watch 'les rosbifs' [the English] simmer," The Guardian said in a front-page story.
The Daily Telegraph said Chirac's bad temper was understandable after French voters overwhelmingly rejected a new constitution for the European Union.
"After all, he has just been kicked in the teeth by his own people's resounding 'non' to his dreams of a European superstate," the Telegraph commented in an editorial.
"But this is no way to conduct high politics. How would Mr. Chirac feel if others descended to his level of argument, and called him a snob and a has-been, who pongs [stinks] of garlic?" the Telegraph said.
Schroeder grinned but was careful with his words when he was asked about Chirac's remarks.
"No word from me on these secret talks," the chancellor said.
"I'm no fan of salmon, and I hope I will get a decent steak — I'm sure I will get one," he said, when asked whether he was looking forward to the G-8 food. "Beyond that, I don't know English — or Scottish — cuisine well enough that I could really talk as an expert."
The Sun said Chirac also could have damaged his country's Olympic bid by criticizing food from Finland in the same conversation.
Paris and London are among the contenders for the 2012 Olympic Games, to be decided on Wednesday. Although British and French International Olympic Committee (search) members are banned from voting, two Finnish IOC members will be voting, and the paper said their votes could be crucial.