REPORTING FROM PARIS -- First France built a wall around its language to protect it from pernicious Anglo-Saxon invaders. Now it is throwing up a shield against another perceived threat to its culture and civilization: ketchup.
In an effort to promote healthy eating and, it has been suggested, protect traditional Gallic cuisine, the French government has banned school and college cafeterias nationwide from offering the iconic American tomato-based condiment with any food but — of all things — French fries.
As a result, students can no longer use ketchup on such traditional dishes as veal stew, no matter how gristly, and boeuf bourguignon, regardless of its fat content.
Moreover, French fries can be offered only once a week, usually with “steak haché,” or burger. Unclear is whether the food police will send students to detention if they dip their burgers into the ketchup that accompanies their fries.
“France must be an example to the world in the quality of its food, starting with its children,” said Food and Agriculture Minister Bruno Le Maire.
Ronald Reagan's White House may have considered ketchup — made famous by Henry John "H.J." Heinz, who produced the first bottle in 1876 — a vegetable. But Gallic gastronomes view it with the same disdain as American television series, English words and McDonald's restaurants — unwelcome cultural impostors.
-- Kim Willsher
Photo: The French government has banned school and college cafeterias nationwide from offering ketchup with any food but French fries. Credit: Los Angeles Times