Sacre Bleu! French President Nicolas Sarkozy Rids His Diet of Cheese?

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Philippe Wojazer / Reuters

A Telegraph story about French president Nicolas Sarkozy’s banning of cheese at Elysee Palace has been stirring up controversy. “An anti-cheese French president? Quelle horreur!” MSNBC cried.

However, while Sarkozy’s diet may be veering away from French tradition, it’s not quite the controversy that’s being reported. The Telegraph story reports:

“Charles de Gaulle once famously declared: “How can anyone govern a nation that has two hundred and forty-six different kinds of cheese?”

The fitness mad Mr Sarkozy has chosen to remove the source of De Gaulle’s angst from his sight, according to presidential chef Bernard Vaussion, who is cooking for his fifth French head of state.”

But, in fact, as the Agence France-Presse first reported, the president is only doing away with the post-meal cheese course. Foreign Policy pointed out the distinction, saying “Sarkozy has chosen to forgo a cheese course after meals. That is not the same thing as issuing some kind of anti-fromage fatwa.” It’s one thing to deny oneself the delicious pleasure of French cheese, and quite another to deny the right to those around you.

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The Telegraph reports that First Lady Carla Bruni changed the president’s ways, motivating him to ditch his beloved chocolate and adopt a more health-conscious lifestyle. Well, if you’re going to be married to a supermodel wife 13 years your junior, you’d best be at least trying to keep your body in decent shape, right?

In addition to a rigorous exercise regimen, Sarkozy’s diet is now comprised of “light, balanced meals and poultry to red meat,” according to Vaussion. The chef said that although he’s more aware of his intake, Sarkozy still has a healthy appetite and personally approves the day’s meals by writing “yes” in the margin next to the dishes he proposes.

Sarkozy’s commitment to his nutritious lifestyle may be put to the test in coming three weeks leading up to the presidential election; his re-election campaign has already included visits to a cheese factory, fondue lunch with supporters, and meeting with chocolatiers and sausage-makers.

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