Michael Bond is known for his Paddington Bear series of books, and he brings a similar innocuous humour to his Monsieur Pamplemousse series of detective novels. No, I rather lie. The Monsieur Pamplemousse series is a long litany of farcical situations, many quite funny, quite in keeping with the English view that for the French, humour is over the top. (For instance, Pamplemousse's dog is called Pommes Frites.) And, because the series is set in France, there is considerable emphasis on food (did I mention that the dog was called Pommes Frites?)
In Monsieur Pamplemousse Hits the Headlines, the man has a rueful conversation with some fellow Frenchmen.
"Does the dog always travel with you?" asked the interviewer.
"Invariably," said Monsieur Pamplemousse firmly. "He performs a valuable service, especially on days like today. For déjeuner we will behaving tripes à la mode de Caen, and I shall need his help. My sister-in-law Agathe first served it to me many years ago when I was courting my wife. In order to gain favour I said it was the best I had ever eaten. She has been serving it to me ever since.
The man looked at him sympathetically. "It is not good?"
"It is arguably the worst I have ever encountered," said Monsieur Pamplemousse fervently. "Agathe is a lovely person. She has a heart of gold. But she has two faults. She 'enjoys' bad health and, unlike my wife, she is a terrible cook."
"The two often go together," said the gendarme, joining in the conversation. "To be successful, tripes à la mode de Caen need a great deal of lengthy preparation. Ideally, the tripes should come from ruminants that have been fed in guimaux meadows, that is to say, meadows bearing two crops of grass a year. The belly, the first and second stomach, along with a calf's foot, which of course should be split, the bone removed, then blanched, all need to be thoroughly washed in cold water. This is especially the case with the second stomach, which is honeycombed and can be a source of trouble. Then a flameproof casserole dish - preferably the flat type peculiar to Normandy - should be lined with sliced apple and onion. Reinette apples are supposed to be the best. The most important ingredients after that are carrots, onions, leeks, a bouquet garni and of course cider, preferably dry from the Vallée d'Auge, with a few tablespoons of Calvados mixed in."
Monsieur Pamplemousse revised his earlier assessment of the gendarme. He was clearly a man to be reckoned with.
"There are those," broke in the man from the census office, "who say it is not necessary to put apple in the casserole. They say the best solution is to round off the meal with an apple tart afterwards."
"I have an aunt who lives in Caen," said the gendarme stiffly. "I think she knows what she is talking about. She maintains the real secret is in the slow cooking."
"It should be given at least twelve hours," agreed the interviewer. "Not a minute less. I, too, have relatives in Normandy," he added, not to be outdone.
"I doubt if my sister-in-law gives hers more than two hours," said Monsieur Pamplemousse. "She turns the heat up high."
The gendarme crossed himself. "If you ask me, short cuts are a symptom of a nation in decline," he said gloomily. "Everyone is in a hurry these days."