French President Nicolas Sarkozy has committed gastronomic sacrilege and risked his reputation with the French public by giving up cheese. The French president’s chef made the potentially embarrassing revelation that brie has been banned from the dinner table at the Elysee Palace.
Sarkozy’s culinary credibility had previously taken a blow when it emerged that he drinks no wine — a key source of French national pride. And with a presidential election looming, the latest revelation risks striking another blow to his credentials as a flag-bearer for French food.
He risks being politically outflanked by the French National Front, whose leader Marine Le Pen has claimed to be the ‘champion’ of rural France. Bernard Vaussion, the Elysee Palace chef, was quoted as saying the health-conscious president now opts for ‘light, balanced meals and poultry to red meat’.
In keeping with this, the chef says, Sarkozy has done away with cheese after meals, admitting ‘it was too much for him’. The fear of fromage even threatened to spark a diplomatic incident after Sarkozy mocked the German Chancellor, Angela Merkel.
He reportedly told another EU leader that ‘she says she is on a diet and then helps herself to a second helping of cheese’. The president’s wholesome diet is said to have been inspired by his wife Carla, a former model who is 13 years his junior.
As part of her strict health programme for her husband, she has him following a strenuous exercise regime and a frugal diet of fish, vegetables, salads and sorbets.
Cottage cheese is still allowed, it is understood. However, with elections only three-weeks away, Sarkozy has shown himself willing to break the ban if he believes it can earn him votes.
His re-election campaign kicked off with a visit to a cheese factory in Annecy, where he accepted chocolate, crepes and sausages from local shopkeepers. Before going on to a fondue lunch in the Alpine city, he quipped, “I’ll put on three kilos and its only the first day.”
Meanwhile, the portly Hollande, who is Sarkozy’s opponent in the polls, has himself been on a diet, as he tries to shake his nickname of Flanby — a caramel custard dessert.
Seeking to trim nation’s waistline
Nicolas Sarkozy, fighting for a second term as French president, is promising to cut 40 billion euro in public spending and raise 13.5 billion euro in new taxes in the coming years.
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