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Recently, we had a longtime mutual friend — a non-cook — over for a meal. He invited himself.

This husband and father has been a modest but successful entrepreneur most of his career. He is now semi-retired.

Although his wife was unable to join him on this occasion, it struck me how he thought what he said was completely correct and brooked no opposition. Being passive-aggressive, he wasn’t overtly unpleasant about it, but one could see that he has control issues. Absorbing all the mainstream media talking points, he is far from an original thinker. As he ages, he expects everyone to agree with him. He also does not like being asked anything that’s off his ‘script’, for lack of a better word. A simple, non-controversial question about his children met with ‘Why are you asking me that?’

To make matters worse, once we sat down to eat, every course underwent a critique. Starter: ‘Hmm. Now, see, I would have served a bread roll with that.’ Main course accompaniment: ‘Homemade bread, eh? We’ll see how good it tastes.’ Main course: ‘Hmm. Ham. An interesting choice.’ Dessert: ‘To pep this up a bit, I would use Ginger Nuts in the crust. Digestive biscuits are too bland.’

And to top it off: ‘You can try my suggestions and see how well they work for you.’

Then: ‘I’ll tell you what. Next time, my wife and I and my [two adult] children will all come over. I am sure they would find your food a talking point. My children have taken rather expensive cooking courses, so they know what they are doing in the kitchen.’

I could hardly wait until he left. Unfortunately, we will be seeing him again. I’m already dreading it.

Not only did all this take us quite a while to prepare — these are among our most reliable dishes — I also spent a couple of days sprucing up the garden and the house. Last time this man — also a non-gardener — invited himself over several years ago, he gave us his unsolicited opinion on nearly all our plants. Needless to say, he had many suggestions for improvement — never mind that both my better half and I were both working long days at the time. Perhaps my recent tidying paid off as he had no horticultural comment this year.

He would probably self-identify as a value-added guest. I can hear him saying, ‘People love having me over because they enjoy what I have to say.’

This is not how I was brought up. First, I wouldn’t invite myself over for a meal. Second, I would not criticise what my hosts served me. People prepare food the way they enjoy it. Third, don’t criticise their house or garden. Fourth, I would converse with my hosts rather than tell them what to think; no one has all the answers. Not one question to either of us unless it was part of his next ‘lesson’ and further demonstration of his infinite superiority. (The French would call him a donneur des leçons, not a welcome phrase with which to be labelled.)

I am amazed that people such as he have such a high opinion of themselves. I found him to be remarkably arrogant. He found me challenging.

In case you are wondering, he has no religious beliefs. Happily, religion did not pop up in the conversation.

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2013 marked the 60th annual Cannes Lions advertising festival.

I wrote a bit about the Lions last week. I also hadn’t realised until this year that The Guardian is an official Cannes Lions representative.

At the Palais des Festivals where the week-long conference is held, there was an exhibition celebrating 60 years of advertising. Many iconic adverts from the West were on display from print and television media. It was open to the public, so SpouseMouse and I took a trip down memory lane.

In the room next to the exhibition was another large area which The Guardian had reserved for an opening night welcome party for the Lions. They also held smaller dos at other venues in Cannes; we happened to be at some of the same places.

Our hotel, not surprisingly, had a large number of delegates. All 12,000 stayed in or around the city, sometimes in rented accommodation. You will be lucky to find a taxi on your own during that time. When we checked out of our hotel, the woman at the desk said she wasn’t sure how long we would have to wait because none were available. In the event, we no sooner walked out and one was there; we were able to share with someone else who was on his way to the airport.

Also in the hotel were copies of the Cannes Lions daily journal. I picked up a copy. Whilst most of it listed the hundreds of firms and people listed as finalists for the year’s best advertising, the first few pages were devoted to the global advertising strategy for the future.

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is a big part of this. Nearly every article mentioned it. Their challenge is called Cannes Chimera, and registration for the 2013 one is now open. In this new video, Mrs Gates explains how important advertising is in urging the West to improve the Third World, e.g. vaccines and contraceptives:

This video shows soundbites from past Cannes Lions festival guest speakers — among them, Bill Clinton, Al Gore and Bob Geldof — discussing the role that advertising can play in nudging the West into improving equality and fairness (read ‘wealth redistribution’) in other parts of the world:

One of the Cannes Lions daily journal articles featured a quote from someone who is working with young advertising talent straight out of university. He said:

We want young people to say, ‘Hey, isn’t the world a wonderful place? Let’s change it.’

If it is wonderful, then, surely, there is no need for the almighty Change.

Whilst studying the adverts on display at the Palais des Festivals exhibition, I noticed that the adverts from 2008 — principally Obama’s first campaign but other subjects — began to get heavier in tone and content. Whereas earlier advertising spoke to people of all ages and backgrounds, the new work is often quite gloomy and ‘worthy’ (not a compliment in British English). The only exception on display was a clever, interactive award-winning Super Bowl piece featuring polar bears; one could even go online to play a little game with them as well as watch their adverts, which were quite funny.

Therefore, with the Gates Foundation, The Guardian and other left-leaning change merchants involved, our advertising will look dramatically different than it has done previously. More new media will be used and the messages will be presented in a ‘nudging’ manner and with a social message. All the more reason to skip the ads between programming segments on television.

Bill Clinton said in the video above that he hopes the Cannes Lions will change the face of advertising for the next 20 to 30 years. That’s a heck of a long time. It’s one generation in traditional terms, but, if we look at our colleagues and neighbours who are ten years older or younger than we, there are subtle differences between ourselves and them.  If you’re 55 you may be a bon viveur and a libertarian. If you’re 40, you might be preoccupied with wearing sunscreen and ensuring personal safety.  If you’re 65, you think it’s cool to vote Labour and rent an allotment.

I had a peek at some of the 2013 winners, which will be available only until August 1. My blood pressure soared with the few I looked at (Metamorphosis and The Ant Rally), with the exception of Channel 4’s lead-in for the 2012 Paralympics — ‘Meet the Superhumans’. I am pleased that won the Grand Prix in its category, Film Craft.

Which reminds me of the article I read in the Cannes Lions journal about the Paralympics. Dan Brooke, Channel 4’s marketing director, said he was proud of the event and the station’s coverage of it. I was  reading along thinking, ‘Hear, hear!’ The next sentence said he was happy that Britain was finally becoming a less prejudiced country because of the Paralympics. What a sad — and false — indictment of his nation and his people.

To those who watched it, the Paralympics represented a new facet of unexpected — and yes, superhuman — ability. Nearly everyone SpouseMouse and I know embraced it — warmly. No prejudice involved, Mr Brooke.

Advertising — stay away from it. Probably for the rest of your life.

It’s moving leftward, no matter where you live.

It’s pretty clear that for France’s Health Minister Marisol Touraine (Parti Socialiste) smoking is the country’s principal health problem.

It’s not enough that cigarette tax went up by 20 cents at the beginning of July, now she would like to ban smoking in the fresh airà la Michael Bloomberg.  On July 22, she said that she would like to see the pastime banned on beaches and in parks. Not only there, but on sidewalks in front of schools and university campuses. Touraine hopes to achieve this through ‘dialogue’ with local councils.

Last year, a few French resort cities — Cannes, Nice and Le Ciotat — designated one or two public beaches as non-smoking. Le Ciotat’s entire public beach is non-smoking. Therefore, we can see that no national measures are necessary.

However, the Conservative (UMP) Yves Bur — longtime French parliamentarian, ex-dental surgeon, head of the (government-funded) Alliance contre le tabac and the creator of France’s indoor smoking ban — says that Touraine’s solution is but a ‘mesurette‘. He would like to see the prohibition of smoking outdoors become national legislation. This does not surprise me in the slightest and, even when he was devising the indoor ban in 2005, I sensed it would not be enough for him. Bur also introduced legislation which removed vending machines from schools and upped the tax on alcopops. Think of the children!

On RMC-BFMTV on Monday, July 22, Bur said:

It’s a way of denormalising smoking everywhere. We must make parents understand that they mustn’t smoke in front of children, in the house, in schools, in public places, on beaches.

Later that morning, RMC’s Grandes Gueules and their listeners debated whether this was a health measure or an anti-litter one, because most anti-smokers who wrote or rang in complained of cigarette butts on beaches. The panel said, ‘But that’s a question of litter, not health. And there are already laws for that.’ It’s strange that anti-smoking beach lovers never complain about all the other trash — much more offensive — they see at the seaside: tampon applicators, used condoms, cans, bottles, food wrappers and much more.

I was interested to hear les GG take the smoking warnings so seriously. ‘Smoking kills,’ one said. ‘Indeed it does,’ responded another. ‘Just read the back of cigarette packets!’ What started out as ‘Smoking may be harmful to health’ became ‘Smoking kills’. Yet, a number of centenarians still smoke and some only stopped in their old age. Jeanne Calment, who held the title of world’s oldest woman for several years, only stopped smoking sometime over the age of 100 because she could no longer see well enough to strike a light.

Meanwhile, France has a chronic shortage of doctors in rural areas and they have little urgent weekend medical coverage elsewhere. But that seems much less urgent. I read in last week’s Marianne that Touraine is planning on closing a small ER in central Paris.

Furthermore, her department has set up state-sponsored shooting galleries for hard drug users. It seems heroin is all right, but tobacco is taboo.

As RMC listener linou77 commented, which was also brought up by a caller to les GG:

They allow prostitutes on the roadside, let kids smoke their joints openly, create special places for drug addicts, not to mention the alcoholics we see every day falling over in the street, but they’re making a moral message about smoking in public. Leave us alone!! Stop nannying us.

Indeed — oh, the irony! Also, what about encouraging children to have sex before they even understand what it is? What about youth crime which damages youngsters psychologically as well as physically? It is sad to read about young French girls being raped in public places; only last week a 13-year old was raped on a street in Marseille in broad daylight.

See my series of articles under ‘the bogus science behind Tobacco Control’ on smoking bans and the big lie about second hand smoke. Even first hand smoke is up for question. As for fertility? The postwar years had the greatest number of smokers and the greatest number of babies born in the Western world.  Not to mention that our life expectancy is the longest it’s ever been — long before smoking bans. Now, it seems, we can’t die quickly enough. The younger generation need our houses.

Oh, the irony.

The word ‘holy’ used to strike awe and fear into Christians, especially those aged 80 and over.

My parents and grandparents used the word rarely and only when appropriate.

Now it seems as if ‘holy’ equates to ‘Christian love’ which equates to ‘accepting everything going’.

The Ugley Vicar from England’s Essex (Ugley is the name of a town in that county) recently posted on a rationale from Synod for women bishops. His readers took this, rightly, as a call for an all-inclusive God — meaning a ‘she’ — and mused that this is often a dog whistle for LGBT rights in the church.

The document which the vicar cites — ‘A Health Report on the C of E Following York Synod’ — features the following quote from Colin Coward. He is the Director of Changing Attitude within the Synod.

If that isn’t a 1984-ish title — particularly for the Church — what is?

Anyway, here are a few sentences from Mr Coward (emphases mine):

The Church of England knows it has a crisis on its hands. It thinks the crisis might be solved by gently persuading enough conservatives to overcome their convictions and vote yes for women bishops. I am convinced the problem is far deeper than that … I believe in a God of love. They believe in a nasty, rule-bound, vindictive God who despite everything they say, hates gays. Until they overcome their prejudice, they will continue to drive the church towards a precipice.

How does he arrive at such a spurious conclusion?

More importantly, has Mr Coward read the New Testament, especially the Book of Jude?

There is a modern day confusion between holiness and accepting every sin around us. One has only to read the Epistles to learn this.

Yet in Modernist and Postmodern Christianity, we must ‘love’ not only the sinner — quite rightly — but also accept, if not encourage, his sin. Where is that in the New Testament?

Carl Jacobs made an excellent point in the comments (emphases mine):

They believe in a nasty, rule-bound, vindictive God who despite everything they say, hates gays.

Translation: “They believe in a God of Holiness.”

The Love of God in liberal conception is reconstructed into an expression of human autonomy. It begins with the assumption that man is basically good, and that therefore his autonomouus desires are basically good. Justice becomes an effort to enable people to act upon their autonomous desires. The “God of Love” becomes an ex post facto divine justification of human desire – a means to functionally deify autonomous man. This is the essence of liberal religion.

“Holiness” by contrast begins with boundaries, the transgression of which produces divine wrath. Justice is a correct alignment reward and punishment with behavior. Man being a natural trangressor faces wrath for the sake of justice and the whole of the Gospel falls out. This is the essence of orthodox Christianity.

Two very different religions indeed. Why be unequally yoked?

carl

God is, indeed, love. However, He asks us to become holy, as He is holy. He wants as many of us as possible to share eternal life with Him and His son. This precludes our deliberate sinful behaviour. Why would it be all right for the chosen of Israel in the Old Testament to be chastised for their sins and not us?

It seems as if many Christians — Protestant and Catholic — are falling into a me-centred Christianity, which is no Christianity at all.

Love your neighbour, by all means, but let’s not allow our sins to universally defile Christ’s holy Bride, the Church.

Bible oldContinuing a study of the passages from Luke’s Gospel which have been omitted from the three-year Lectionary for public worship, today’s post is part of my ongoing series Forbidden Bible Verses, also essential to understanding Scripture.

Today’s reading is from the English Standard Version with commentary by Matthew Henry and John MacArthur.

Luke 5:27-32

Jesus Calls Levi

 27 After this he went out and saw a tax collector named Levi, sitting at the tax booth. And he said to him, “Follow me.” 28And leaving everything, he rose and followed him.

 29And Levi made him a great feast in his house, and there was a large company of tax collectors and others reclining at table with them. 30And the Pharisees and their scribes grumbled at his disciples, saying, “Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?” 31And Jesus answered them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. 32 I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.”

————————————————————————————-

This account parallels Mark’s, which I covered a little over a year ago. That post also explains tax collecting in Jesus’s time in the Roman Empire. Sunday School teachers might find the detail useful.

Matthew’s account of his call by Jesus also ties in with these Mark’s and Luke’s. Furthermore, all three passages are preceded by His healing the paralytic. It is possible that Matthew’s calling happened shortly afterward, with the Pharisees following Jesus from the house where the paralytic was healed. This is Matthew 9:9-13 (emphases mine):

Jesus Calls Matthew

 9 As Jesus passed on from there, he saw a man called Matthew sitting at the tax booth, and he said to him, “Follow me.” And he rose and followed him.

 10And as Jesus reclined at table in the house, behold, many tax collectors and sinners came and were reclining with Jesus and his disciples. 11And when the Pharisees saw this, they said to his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” 12But when he heard it, he said, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. 13Go and learn what this means, ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.’ For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.”

The first part of verse 13 is the only difference between Matthew’s and that of the other two Gospels. It is a good verse to use with atheists who ask with nauseating regularity why Christians don’t sacrifice animals according to the Old Testament. Surely, this is but another example whereby they should be asking Jews that question. The answer is that the destruction of the Temple by the Romans in 70 AD put paid to the sacrifice system in Mosaic law.

However, there is a more important point here to impress upon our atheist friends. Jesus cites the Old Testament — Hosea 6:6:

6For I desire steadfast love and not sacrifice,
   the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings.

Jesus came to bring us all to faithful love and knowledge of God, hence His association with people who were on the margins of society. Another point is that, even in the Old Testament, the love and knowledge of God surpassed any penitential or ritual sacrifice. Later, our Lord’s death on the Cross was the ultimate, sufficient and efficacious sacrifice for all sin.

It’s interesting that Dawkins always speaks of the God of the Old Testament who was preparing His chosen for Christ. Dawkins rarely discusses the Gospels, consequently, neither do his disciples. Talk about the blind leading the blind.

Now onto Luke’s account. In verse 27, Matthew is referred to by his original name, Levi. It is unclear whether he changed his name after becoming an Apostle or if he already had that name. John MacArthur says:

This is Matthew and Matthew in his gospel calls himself Matthew. Matthew means “gift of Jehovah,” it’s a nice name and he chooses to call himself by that name. Many people in ancient times as they do today have more than one name, two names. It was common. Thomas was called Didymus, Bartholomew was also called Nathanael so it’s somewhat common. And he had two names. His names were Matthew and Levi. He is best known to us obviously because of the gospel of Matthew by that name.

Jesus said simply, ‘Follow me’, and Matthew just left his post (verse 28). What happened there? Recall that Jesus in His divinity knew people’s hearts. He told the paralytic that his sins were forgiven, knowing that the state of his soul preyed upon his mind. To us, that would be puzzling. Surely, Jesus would have healed the man physically, then spiritually. However, Jesus knew that sin was paramount in the man’s mind. If he had been forgiven of sin, he probably would have been content to continue in his infirmity. His physical condition was secondary to him; his priority was to get right with God. May we learn from his example.

As for Levi/Matthew, perhaps our Lord sensed that he, too, felt the burden of sin in collecting various taxes. Matthew — as he refers to himself in his own account — was not one of the Inland Revenue or IRS men. Their ancient equivalent would have been closer to that of the gabbai. The gabbai collected the big taxes, e.g. on property and crop yields. MacArthur says that Zacchaeus — the man who climbed up a tree to better see Jesus — was a gabbai. Matthew was a mokhe. Mokhes collected tax on anything that moved. They bought tax franchises from the Romans which allowed them to do this. Sometimes one mokhe was in charge of a team of junior mokhes who worked directly for him.

We read of ‘publicans’ in the New Testament. Essentially:

Tax collectors were known as publicans during this time — no relationship to the later meaning of the word referring to a person who runs a pub. They belonged to the Roman class of equites, which is also referred to as the equestrian order, an elite group of high-ranking men, mostly military, but also independent businessmen who held tax franchises, or tax farms. This development came about around 218 BC, when Roman law ruled that too much commercial activity on the part of senators and their sons was unbefitting of their status.

Because mokhes were somewhat independent agents acting for the state via these tax farms / franchises, they might charge their friends and business associates less tax than they would a stranger or someone they did not like. The Romans didn’t bother with them too much, leaving the mokhes’ system open to corruption. It was easy to skim off the top and line one’s own pockets. So, some were extortionists. Furthermore, a mokhe could get the debt collectors out after anyone who owed him money. One palm greased another. It was a lucrative, crooked career to have. It was also unlikely that a mokhe became a gabbai.

Jewish society considered mokhes to be racketteers. They were not allowed into the temple because the priests and the people considered them morally unclean.

If moral sin was preying on Matthew’s mind, then it was no wonder he just left his station and followed our Lord. Sin preyed on the paralytic’s mind. And, earlier in Luke 5, Peter had a severe realisation of his own sin in the fishing boat at the abundance of their catch (Luke 5:8):

8But when Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord.”

It is interesting that Matthew threw a dinner party after meeting Jesus (verse 29). One wonders if he somehow felt some sense of relief at having been asked to follow Him. Perhaps subconsciously, this was a last hurrah for him; he had left his gainful — and lucrative — employment. He would not be encountering his dinner guests again, at least not in such circumstances. He was turning his back on that old life of immorality.

With all the conviction of sin in Luke 5, there stood the Pharisees in their self-righteousness (verse 30). What a contrast. And like the self-righteous, they wasted no time in finger-pointing at Jesus’s association with the tax collectors and other social pariahs. Jesus responded (verse 31), perhaps with a sense of irony that He came not for the righteous — a poke at the Pharisees, knowing well that they were full of sin — but for the sick. Note Peter’s and Matthew’s responses to Him as well as the paralytic’s. Set that against the Pharisees’ response.

Today, we have largely consigned talking about sin to the dustbin of life, not because we have forsaken iniquity but rather because we embrace it so tightly. Sin is our 21st-century friend. However, Jesus did not see things that way. He does not love our attachment to it. Verse 32:

I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.

Matthew Henry reminds us of Jesus’s grace and mercy in those words:

Here is a wonder of grace indeed, that Christ undertakes to be the Physician of souls distempered by sin, and ready to die of the distemper (he is a Healer by office, v. 31)-that he has a particular regard to the sick, to sinners as his patients, convinced awakened sinners, that see their need of the Physician-that he came to call sinners, the worst of sinners, to repentance, and to assure them of pardon, upon repentance, v. 32. These are glad tidings of great joy indeed.

Luke 5 describes the wonder and awe the Galileans felt towards Jesus’s public ministry. It was a honeymoon period for Him, with the exception of the Pharisees and His fellow Nazarenes. What better time to begin choosing His Twelve. Throughout His time with them He was careful to shield them from the confrontations the Pharisees engineered. Henry offers this analysis:

It was a wonder of his grace that Christ reserved the trials of his disciples for their latter times, when by his grace they were in some good measure better prepared and fitted for them than they were at first. Now they were as the children of the bride-chamber, when the bridegroom is with them, when they have plenty and joy, and every day is a festival. Christ was welcomed wherever he came, and they for his sake, and as yet they met with little or no opposition; but this will not last always. The days will come when the bridegroom shall be taken away from them, v. 35 …

More on that next week.

Next time: Luke 5:33-39

Each time we go to Cannes, I notice an increasing disconnect between visitors from what the French call ‘Anglo-Saxon’ nations and l’Hexagone.

This centres around one of the most important features of French life, food.

Before I get to Anglo-Saxons, however, the most glaring example just a few weeks ago was the gathering of 12,000 advertising folk from around the world — not all of them Western — for the annual Cannes Lions week celebrating all things involving adverts. More about them in another post.

Mad Men at table

Here are two brief vignettes involving the self-important and wet-behind-the-ears Cannes Lions.

First, let me say that this group always peeve me, even more than they do SpouseMouse, who doesn’t even like advertising. Ironically, I love advertising. I love Mad Men. I deeply admire advertising veteran Jerry Della Femina who could, by virtue of age, be a grandfather to many of those young pups gathered in Cannes every June. Would that he were. They would be much wiser men and women.

Vignette 1: My better half and I went to one of our regular fish restaurants to find an international group of Cannes Lions at the next table. (Cannes Lions are easy to spot with their postcard-sized dog tags which they insist on wearing everywhere.) These were twenty- and thirty-something men from the US and Asia. Fortunately, the eldest thirty-something from somewhere in North America gently attempted to advise the younger set on what to order and talked up the main Cannois dishes. Unfortunately, even he met with a lukewarm response from the pups. ‘Wellll, I don’t knoooow.’ ‘They call shrimp gambas? That’s just weird.’ ‘Uhhh, I’ll have what you have.’ And these men are spearheading the collective Western messages we get in mainstream media!

I must admit that I was tempted to have a go at their ignorance. SpouseMouse said, ‘You’re going to embarrass me in a minute.’ ‘Yes. Because eating well here is not complicated.’ ‘Just let them figure it out.  They’re not worth the time or the energy.’ Given the proximity of our table to theirs, I could easily have whispered some GBH of the earhole to the Mad Men on my right who are telling everyone else what to think!

Vignette 2: A few days afterward — early the following week — we returned for a second dinner at a new restaurant we found thanks to friends. Having thoroughly enjoyed the menu dégustation a deluxe ‘tasting menu’ featuring a minimum of four courses, large and small — we went for our penultimate meal for 2013. We were handed the à la carte menu once we sat down. Why? SpouseMouse, in the usual English way, said, ‘Please don’t say anything. If it’s à la carte tonight, it is what it is.’ So, I shut up. We enjoyed piscatorial delicacies from the Bay of Cannes, including dorade and rouget. Our starter was a delightful plate of deep-fried courgette (zucchini) flowers in tempura batter.

Whilst we were eating, it was evident that the Cannes Lions and their sponsors — all dressed in t-shirts, jeans (!) or shorts (?!) — had reserved a number of tables at this small, well-publicised and elegant establishment. After the bill was paid, I had to ask about the menu dégustation. The owner told us, ‘This is the only week of the year when we don’t have it. You see, this crowd do not want a menu dégustation. They want to drink and talk, eat a little bit, then go. They do not have the inclination or the patience for flavours or taste combinations.”

The Anglo-Saxon food desert and fussy eaters

And that, readers, is what sums up today’s visitor to Cannes. I am sorry to say that their tastes are dictated by Anglo-Saxon ones, which, by and large, aren’t up to much these days. With a handful of  butchers, bakers and artisan growers left, where does the average Westerner or transplant to a Western country find reliably good food?

He doesn’t. This holds true for those in many English-speaking countries.

Therefore, we are left with a dearth of decent food and good chefs. Oh, of course, you see them on television, but, like the Cannes Lions, how many appreciate a good restaurant — or good food in general? People today go to eat somewhere increasingly for reasons largely unrelated to food — it’s ‘highly rated and has a buzz’, ‘I saw it on a food blog somewhere’, it’s ‘the place to be seen’ and so on. A restaurant becomes an anonymous place; somewhere to say you’ve been, as if it were a museum of sorts. You don’t really enjoy it, but to follow the trend-setting lemmings — many of whom have never heard of classics like pressed duck or ortolan (a François Mitterand favourite, now banned) — ‘you just have to go there’!

As a result, one finds in Cannes — this small city of excellent French food, chefs, fromagers, sommeliers and many others who try their utmost to present their national and regional cuisine competently — to a group of unappreciative foreign diners.

How many times did I run into English-speakers who said, ‘It never occurred to me to try French cheese’? Several. Yet, there was one hotel which did an outstanding job of presenting 20 cheeses on a single board. Not only was each one labelled with the name of the cheese but it also included the type of milk used (e.g. goat, cow, sheep) as well as the region where it was made. Thanks to them, I tried a dozen new cheeses — each one marvellous.

How many times did I run into English-speakers who said in this Mediterranean port city, ‘Uhh, I don’t like fish. I think I’ll have chicken instead’? Several. It’s interesting that, afterward, most of them said, ‘I should have had the fish. It looked really tasty. I’ll know for next time.’

Whaaat?

If ever there was a time to try fish, cheese and other French foods, this was it. Out of all the places I’ve visited in France over the past 40 — well, nearly — years, Cannes has the most reliable restaurants in the country. And these men and women stick together to make their establishments work. We had a conversation about ten years ago with a longtime restaurateur who gave us a bit of an insight.

Of course, there are the parochial fussy eaters, about whom more in another post. ‘Oooh, I don’t like this or that’. ‘I’ve never tried it, but I know it will taste bad.’ ‘My grandfather said fish was horrible.’ What on earth could taste bad in Cannes? Restaurants are cheek upon jowl in a concentrated area. If someone messes up with his food, be assured that the other restaurateurs will know about it. He will not last long.

‘Anglo-Saxons’ approach Cannes with bewilderment, even if most menus are translated into English. It is not unusual for us to strike up a pleasant conversation with a potential couple of perplexed diners at the table next to ours. Sometimes they take us up on our recommendations, other times not. However, they do end up with a better dining experience than if they had just hem-hawed around with the menu and the waiter. One time, we even received a complimentary limoncello as a ‘thank you’ from one restaurateur who was not looking forward to dealing with more English speakers.

The final ‘menu dég’ of 2013

Having been concerned about the Cannes Lions, we went to another of our favourite places not far from La Croisette. The family advertise traditional French cuisine ‘at gentle prices’. And they live up to it. A lot of French families — and singles — ate there regularly. They had a lot of bookings for Father’s Day, when the owner presented every dad with a small floral bouquet, customary in France on that occasion.

This man was unworried about the Cannes Lions and, happily, they did not book a table there — at least when we went there. ‘Oh, yes, the advertising people. We have the menu dégustation every day, regardless.’

We had seven courses for €49. Every one was excellent, from tian (carpaccio) of scallop with caviar, to a lobster course, to the pan-fried foie gras, to the fillet of beef, to the cheese course through to the dessert, an enormous and perfectly prepared crème brulée.

That night, the owner and his son shared waiting on our table. The father was doing most of it, but halfway through sent the son round as they were busy by then. The son asked, ‘Anything for dessert?’ The father, at a nearby table,  overheard and said, ‘They’re having the menu dég! Fillet steak’s up next! Get with it!’ It was the first time we’d ever heard it referred to as menu dég. We still chuckle.

So, that’s what one can largely expect in Cannes — good food at good prices. Fussy or diffident eaters can rest assured that they will get the very best food as well as a positively memorable dining experience. A world of culinary wonder awaits.

Try the restaurants along Rue Félix Faure (runs parallel to La Croisette) and Le Suquet (just west of l’Hôtel de Ville, near Marché Forville).

Food foie-gras-dish1 enjoy-lovelifeblogspotcomIn my post on French food shopping I neglected to add advice about buying foie gras and other luxury items seen on sale in the airport for five times what you would pay for them in a supermarket.

Local supermarkets have foie gras entier (jars) and tinned foie gras along with prepared rillettes and pâtés. Depending on preparation, some of these products are in the chilled section, but more often in another aisle with regular tinned and savoury items in jars.

I saw a jar of foie gras entier — from a good private label, not a supermarket one — on sale this year at the Casino in Cannes for approximately €6. The Hediard store at Nice Airport was selling the same size of foie gras entier for €35 – €38.

Sautéed lobe of foie gras

You can often find whole lobes of foie gras — duck (canard) — on sale in the chilled food aisle for a reasonable price (under €20). (Goose (oïe) will be more expensive and available only from specialist shops.) It’s worth buying a couple, putting them in a chill bag in the suitcase and enjoy them when you return home. They can also be frozen for a few months and thawed when you are ready to eat them.

You can then cut the lobe in thick slices and sauté it quickly on both sides in a very hot pan. The (now-defunct) Grosse Tartine in Cannes’s Rue Batéguier (in the Carré d’Or — clubland — off Rue des Frères Pradignac) turned us on to that delicacy. At that time in the late 1990s, not many restaurants were sautéeing it.

La Grosse Tartine served the foie gras with slices of soft fruit (plum, peach or nectarine work well) sauteed in the same pan. As soon as it is done, season it with high quality sea salt crystals (fleur du sel works best, the restaurateur said, because it has a gentler flavour). Sautéed foie gras — which can be done only with the lobe — is delicious as a starter, especially for your friends and family who have never tried it before. The photo at the top shows you what goose foie gras looks like. Serve it with the fruit on the side of the foie gras and a few slices of fresh, crusty baguette so you can sop up the buttery fat afterward.

Notes on gavage

A note on foie gras and the gavage (frequent feeding) process. RMC’s Eric Brunet interviewed his cousin who raises geese, a certain number of which are bred for foie gras. This lady said that you can tell which ducks and geese have been through a gentle gavage and those who have been cruelly force-fed. Those which have been savagely force-fed will not produce good foie gras. By contrast, this lady said that her geese were ready to eat when the food came in. They looked forward to it. Essentially, good gavage is no different to a human accustomed to overeating during the day.

Food can be a voyage of discovery not only for you but for others. The last time we were in Cannes, we encouraged an Englishwoman to try sautéed foie gras at a group dinner. She was quite resistant. ‘Just have a forkful,’ we said. ‘If you don’t try it, you’ll never know. You’ve already paid for it.’

She gave us the evil eye but ate a small piece. Her evil eye quickly transformed into a look of bliss. ‘This is unbelievably good, I can’t believe it!’

We saw her recently. What were the first words out of her mouth? ‘I’m still thinking about that foie gras a couple of years ago. Meat fondant! Thank you for introducing me to it.’

Boned duck stuffed with foie gras entier

Foie gras entier is great for stuffing boned ducks; truss the bird well so that it doesn’t drip out during roasting — but not so tightly that the bird explodes in the oven. (Tinned foie gras and the lobes will melt too quickly.) A poultry butcher-traiteur in Monaco used to sell these stuffed ducks. We brought one home ten years ago — it was one of the best Sunday lunches ever. Roast the duck uncovered for approximately 90 minutes, possibly a bit less, at 180° C (350° F).

You can also buy other hard to find products such as wild boar pâté in a decent supermarket. I bought one (Jean Brunet brand) for under €2 at Casino.

It doesn’t always cost the world to buy luxury or speciality products.

This is yet another reason to bring bubble wrap and chill bags when you go to France. Buy what you like in a place where everyone else shops, bring it home and enjoy a gastronomic experience.

This also holds true for ‘luxury’ French chocolates and biscuits — many of the brands at the airport are much, much cheaper at the supermarket or Monoprix.

As the Tour de France ended, I saw that Britain’s More4 is showing each day’s events of the 2013 IPC World Championships in Lyon, from mid-afternoon to 7:20 p.m.

If you missed the Paralympics last year or would like to see them again, you have four more days to enjoy these determined athletes revealing their athletic prowess and breaking more world records.

The Paralympians never fail to amaze me, regardless of where they are from. And most of the British favourites from last summer are there, along with a few new faces.

As I write, Great Britain is third in the medals table, behind the United States (second place) and Russia (first).

These men and women are truly inspirational and are excellent role models for other disabled people. Some have been in accidents where they lost limbs or their sight. Others have congenital conditions, such as missing limbs, blindness, cerebral palsy or intellectual underdevelopment.

Well done to More4 — a sister station to Channel4, which covered last year’s Paralympic Games — and to ‘proud sponsors’ Sainsbury’s for reviving the 2012 slogan ‘Here’s to extraordinary’.

Those living outside the UK can click on the live coverage in the lower right-hand box which appears part way through this video:

Two great British summers in a row — and this year we even have the weather to match! It’s been a long time coming.

At 4:24 p.m. on Monday, July 22, 2013 — the hottest day in England since July 19, 2006 — as temperatures reached 33.1°C (91.6°F), the Duchess of Cambridge gave birth to a long-awaited baby, a son.

As I write, His Royal Highness the Prince of Cambridge has not been named. This is normal procedure for the Royal Family, which rightly gives careful consideration to such things.

It was amusing and bemusing to see live news blogs and reports appear in English media. Most of us could have told them that the Royal Family reveal nothing until they issue an official announcement. Foreign media were also present at the Lindo Wing of St Mary’s Hospital in Paddington, among them American and French reporters. RMC has had hourly radio reports over the past 24 hours, saying nothing more than — as expected — the Duchess had gone into labour and, later, that she and the new baby could be leaving hospital today.

The Lindo Wing has long been one of London’s private maternity sites catering to famous British expectant mothers, from millionaires to nobility to royalty. Princess Diana put it at the forefront of women’s minds in the 1980s; both Princes William and Harry were born there. It has a recent history with the Royal Family dating from the late 1970s; both of Princess Anne’s children were born there as were Prince and Princess Michael of Kent’s and the Duke and Duchess of Gloucester’s.

The Daily Mail has a thorough report of the birth with a helpful list of fast facts at the beginning. Here are a few which might dispel rumours circulating beforehand:

– The Duchess was not induced and gave birth naturally.

– Prince William was present for the delivery.

– The Royal couple did not know the sex of the baby in advance.

– Prince William will take two weeks’ paternity leave from the RAF.

– His Royal Highness the Prince of Cambridge replaces Prince Harry as third in line to the throne.

The Duchess was blessed with a child of a healthy weight — 8lb, 6 oz. The next heaviest, weighing five ounces less, was Olympian equestrian Zara Phillips, Princess Anne’s daughter, born in May 1981.

The Queen arrived at Buckingham Palace from Windsor yesterday.

A signed official announcement is displayed in front of the palace behind the gates. In Royal tradition, it is framed and sits on an easel for the public to see.

The Royal birth has attracted much attention in republican France, more than one would have expected. RTL’s morning presenter (also television journalist and specialist in royal families) Stéphane Bern was in London to cover the story for the newspaper Le Parisien. One of his many articles included a live blog detailing the first few hours after the newest Prince’s birth.

As French president François Hollande’s popularity plummets — I could have told them that — the French have been debating the merits or otherwise of a monarchy. Yesterday’s poll in Le Parisien was surprisingly close. The question was, ‘Would you like for France to have a king or a queen?’ The Yes vote garnered 47.7%, but the Noes carried it with 52.3%. Still, that is a narrow margin. RMC’s listeners responded by a similar margin, except with Yeses outweighing the Noes.

Royal heads of state, some claimed, have more stable countries. Is their presence causal or a coincidence? The debate continues. In any event, I’ll give you some surprising financial figures soon demonstrating that Royal families are much cheaper than presidents.

Tour de France 2013 map_homeJust a fortnight after Andy Murray won the Wimbledon men’s singles, Chris Froome won the 100th Tour de France.

Last year’s Tour also had a British flavour, with Sir Bradley Wiggins’s victory. He went on to win cycling gold in the Olympics shortly afterward.

In 2012, Froome’s job was to support Wiggins in the Tour. This year, fellow Sky teammate Richie Porte did that for Froome.

Sir Dave Brailsford does sterling work in coaching Team Sky and his Team GB cyclists in the 2012 gave stunning gold medal performances. He runs a tight ship and his riders show a high degree of professionalism.

Chris Froome not only rode reliably every day but handled the press with aplomb.

This year’s Tour route was the toughest ever, with six highly challenging mountain stages. Froome won three stages and wore the yellow jersey continuously from Saturday, July 6. This was what Wiggins did in 2012.

The only stage France won was Gap-Alpe d’Huez on July 18. The French went mad with excitement. Christophe Riblon’s outstanding victory won him the Super-Combative jersey. Germany’s Marcel Kittel won the final stage on the Champs-Elysées. Britain won overall, and Chris Froome now has an impressive collection of 14 toy lions to pass on to his children and, perhaps, other young family members. Croatia’s Peter Sagan won the green jersey for the second year in a row. A Colombian, Nairo Quintana, won the polka dot jersey — King of the Mountains — and seized the penultimate stage on July 20, Colombia’s Independence Day. He also won the white jersey as the best young rider.  He came in second overall. In third was Spain’s Joaquim Rodriguez, who celebrated the final stage by smoking a cigar — well done, that man. ITV4’s commentators told us that Rodriguez’s nickname in Spanish means ‘cigar’.

Speaking of smoking, ITV4 had a marvellous retrospective collection of old Tour photographs which they showed at the adverts. One was from the 1950s showing a rider relaxing with a cigarette. The caption read ‘Preparing for the Tour’.

The doping scandals of the past two decades have tarnished the Tour’s image immensely. It will take some time before it recovers and that will be only if it remains dope-free going forward.

However, there are other reasons — especially in France — why the intelligentsia criticise the Tour. They see it as populist. On the other hand, as French admirers of this three-week long endurance event point out, it is the only sporting spectacle that is a) absolutely free and b) right on one’s doorstep! Next year, the Tour opens once again in England — hurrah! — for three stages this time, from Leeds to London.

The international flavour of the Tour will continue to grow. Froome, who grew up in Kenya and South Africa (although he has held British nationality for several years), has inspired a number of young Kenyans, much to the delight of his first coach, David Kinjah.

On a familial note, Froome dedicated his win to his late mother. He said that, had it not been for her introducing him to Kinjah, he would still be watching the Tour on television!

France2 and France3 provided their usual stunning coverage, which ITV4 transmitted here in Britain. We were blessed with another year of full coverage of each stage — well done, chaps! ‘Sport for all’ is their slogan — and it’s free. Thank you!

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