and so are the British
THEY call us ‘‘Rosbifs’’ and we call them ‘‘Froggies’’. A misplaced nomer in both cases. As the perceptive Robin Cook pointed out, the national dish of England is, rather, chicken tikka masala, while you will go a long way today to find frogs’ legs on a French menu.
The cuisine of each country is indeed different, although today culinary tastes of all lands coalesce around the same imperialist hamburgers and those ubiquitous chips (which the Americans don’t like to call French fries).
It is in the nature of national prejudices to rely on imagined evidence from previous generations. So please take with a pinch of best sea salt, what we write here about the funny French.
But we must agree that there are oddities (from a traditional British point of view) in the behaviour and thought processes of our nearest neighbours, who have been our oldest enemies and our oldest friends.
It is odd that the French should choose to shut their shops - even their banks - around midday, so that everybody can go off to lunch at the same time. The French just love lunch.
It is odd - yet very convenient to parents - that they don’t bat an eyelid to the presence of little children in their cafés (the French version of our pubs).
It is odd that they are constantly shaking each other’s hands and pecking each other on the cheek (with even men indulging in warm embraces between each other. WARNING: beards are prickly).
It is odd that they address each other as ‘‘vous’’ or ‘‘tu’’, whereas we have only ‘‘you’’ to use.
It is odd that the French rarely travel north to the British Isles, which they imagine as a benighted fog-enveloped country where the food is uneatable and the people talk only in an incomprehensible Shakespearean tongue.
And it is odd that they are all so scared of draughts (‘Il y a un courant d’air – fermez la fenêtre, s’il vous plaît!’).
But the Brits have their oddities, too: they dress funnily; they drive on what most of the world considers the wrong side of the road; they have no trains on Christmas Day; they drink warm beer; and they think everyone should understand their language, however they may pronounce it.
As we all have to share and solve the problems of an increasingly vulnerable world, should we not confine our contemplation of oddities to the domain of folklore, and get on together with saving our planet from self-destruction.