Author says pillar of French culture a shambles

Tue Oct 6, 2009 3:18pm EDT
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By Daniel Bases

NEW YORK (Reuters Life!) - Signs of decay in French food and wine have been apparent for decades but there could be a saving grace, from of all things, the global economic crisis, according to wine critic and author Michael Steinberger.

It was bad economics, an overbearing state bureaucracy and the tyranny of a restaurant guide that contributed to driving France's famous food and wine culture into the ground, he argues in his book "Au Revoir To All That. Food, Wine and the end of France."

French chefs left home for the welcoming and prosperous shores of England and the United States. They were no longer willing to suffer from high taxes, rigid labor laws and a sub-par economy with high unemployment that put fine cuisine out of the reach for most French, says Steinberger.

The wine critic for online magazine Slate, he argues that arrogance on the part of established chefs and their pursuit of building business empires ended up sacrificing the quality that brought worldwide renown for its cuisine.

An avowed Francophile, Steinberger, spoke to Reuters about what went wrong over glasses of the 2007 Lignier-Michelot Bourgogne red and the 2006 Coudoulet de Beaucastel red.

Click here to see an interview with Michael Steinberger.

Q: Why did one pillar of French culture, its food and wine, decline so much in your opinion?

A: "Over the past 25-30 years France has stagnated economically and the cuisine has followed suit. I don't think it is terribly controversial to suggest that the country's gastronomic fortunes are dictated to a very great extent by its economic fortunes.   Continued...