THE BIG DEBATE yesterday among some of my French (and non-French) colleagues was this: is French food the best in the world? The discussion was cordial and civil until I suggested that French food might be a bit over-rated. That unleashed the fury.
I didn't push the point, but I did my best to explain that what you don't often find in French cuisine is spices. You find lots and herbs, with wonderful aromatic flavors, but you don't get much spice -- something I crave in foods. I know French cuisine went through a transformation during the Revolution -- a noticable move toward a more liberal use of herbs and less reliance on spices -- and it is this tradition that remains today. And, ultimately, French food is delicious and special and remains true to the ideas of it's modern 'founder' François Pierre de la Varenne.
But the point I did try to push is that by largely ignoring strong spices French food can, to a foreigner like me, come across as...dare I say it...boring! Ouch. I know that's probably too strong a term and believe me I didn't use that term in my discussion yesterday (partly because I have no idea how to say boring in French). And I know that these kinds of discussions ultimately come down to little more than personal preference. I love spicy foods. The French, in general, don't. Fair enough.