At the risk of turning this week’s article into an edition of QI, I wondered whether you had noticed the European gastronomic headlines recently. I have been shaken to the core by tales of sleaze and corruption splashed across the commercial sections of the French press. Nothing new about that you may say, their behind the scenes political, financial and emotional goings-on are second only to our own homespun dirty tricks these days. But something dark and dastardly has struck at the heart – or should I say stomach – of French gastronomic life, all of which hasalarmingly surfaced this summer.

So, Question 1. Which of the following names would you pick as the odd one out – our colluding culinary culprit if you like?

Was it Antoine-Augustin Parmentier (born 1737), Jean Brillat-Savarin (born 1755), Marie-Antoine Caremme (born 1792), Auguste Escoffier (born 1846) or Asterix the Gaul (born 1959)?

O.K. I am prepared to offer a clue. We are seeking someone who in his time has abandoned decades of gastronomic magnificence and renounced the culinary arts that only Michelin starred French chefs once created. He has then surreptitiously replaced it with Gallic treachery worthy of the business end of Madame Guillotine. Sorry I cannot resist it – we are talking cutting edge here.

Of course you are way ahead of me already it was that shadowy figure; Monsieur Parmentier. Young Antoine-Auguste was a swashbuckler and a ne’er-do-well by anybody’s standards. He spent time in gaol, introduced smallpox vaccinations to the troops of the Napoleonic wars, pioneered the extraction of sugar from beet, was cited in a number of high society divorce cases and published numerous papers on nutritional chemistry. A life you may envy perhaps, but his crucial mistake was the attempted introduction of the potato to the cuisine of France. The humble tuber had circumnavigated the globe from its home in Peru and reached England’s shores, be it by Drake or Raleigh, during the late 16th century. So dependent had we become on this “cattle food” that it’s failure cruelly decimated the Irish population on more than one occasion. Because the potato grew underground and in complete darkness, it was viewed by many Frenchmen as the product of the devil himself, and was seriously blamed for the spread of leprosy in their abundant colonies. It was banned from entry and had to wait until the late 18th century until the French bestowed this foreign interloper with anything other than disdain, even then it was sneaked in by a cunning Parmentier who cited its blossom as the reason to plant.

Jean Brillat Savarin on the other hand published his famous national tome, The Physiology of Taste which has remained in print since 1825. He is widely regarded as the father of the low carbohydrate diet and noted, in the early years of the 19th century, that white flour and sugar were the principal causes of obesity. Carêmme has been seen as the principal creator and publicist of classic French cuisine since being passed the culinary baton soon after, whilst Augsute Escoffier is single-handedly credited with bringing modern French cookery to the our shores, via  London’s Ritz Hotel, during the early part of the 20th century. Asterix, in the late ‘50’s, is reputed to have championed all things French, as well as forcing the Belgians to cook French fries and the English to drink French tea (thé). Running through his cartoon veins lies the very stuff of patriotism. It was he after all, a singular European, who held back the combined forces and dissipated culinary habits of the Roman Empire, as well as defending to the death the cooking and winemaking of the French nation.

Well until recently that is.

Our love/hate thing with France is legendary. They with their sneering derision of “les roastbeefs” the shop-keeping, bowler hat-wearing pedants of the bedroom, and our standard retort of garlic chewing, Gitanes smoking, theatrical eccentrics with an upturned garden shed for a motor vehicle, are all in part true. But what we have traditionally shared in common, or at least I thought we shared, was a mutual dislike of the fast foods of the USA. Instead of drinking with his favourite wine merchant, Alcoholix, alongside their close friend Cesar Drinklikafix, and his neurotic wife Hydrophobia, Asterix has discovered a new culinary venue for his celebratory evenings. He now loves McDonald’s burgers. He has ousted Ronald and foreshadows Cinderella in France’s bid to win the hearts, minds and gastric juices of the next Gallic generation.

Gone are the days of boulevard romance, café society and ice-cold Pernod. The nation that invented Nouvelle cuisine, Impressionism and the Michelin Star has now become the second largest consumer of Big Macs outside of the United States. In addition, they sell more McFlurry than Macon or Merlot in the eateries of Paris each and every day, and sliced potatoes “cooked in the French manner” can, when laid end to end, reach the moon each week. As Asterix now fronts-up the McDonald’s campaign, let us celebrate considerable pride in the burgeoning Norfolk farmer’s markets that now exist and until Mr Bean signs up for a Burger King franchise, congratulate ourselves on our persistent culinary mettle. We are now championing what Asterix has conveniently disowned, a tenacious defence of bio-diversity and an evident local pride in the produce of our region.