Quick, name a country renowned for its cuisine. If France comes to mind, Mark Bittman has a revelation for you: That might have been true decades ago, but "today, when I write about Parisian restaurants I have to eat in three to recommend one, and that’s with expert guidance," he writes in the New York Times. Worse, it's not just high-end joints suffering. Affordable small-time operations that once served up terrific cooking using local food used to be a "national treasure," but they've largely gone by the wayside, too.
"The people of France appear to have lost faith and even interest," writes Bittman. "They spend most of their restaurant dollars at chains, and they no longer trust that restaurants make a majority of their dishes themselves." The government is trying to fix things with a new "made-in-house" logo that restaurants can affix to menus, but it's loaded with loopholes. "Farm-raised, antibiotic-laced, slave-labor-produced and frozen-and-thawed shrimp from Thailand can be legitimately logo-ized, as long as they’re cooked in-house," writes Bittman. Ditto for frozen veggies imported from wherever. If you want great, locally produced meals in France, be prepared to hunt long and to spend big. "In fact, if that’s the kind of food you want to rely on, you’d better get rich or start cooking at home," writes Bittman. Click for his full column.