There are five things that visitors to this country should never do: stand on the lefthand side of an escalator, mispronounce "Leicestershire", assume that we all personally know Benny Hill, think that an American Express card will be useful and disparage our national diet. Matthew Barzun, the US ambassador, has just disparaged our national diet. God help him.
In an aside during a Tatler interview, Barzun made the mistake of revealing that he has been served lamb and potato "180 times" since he arrived in the UK last year. Then he added: "There are limits, and I have reached them." And that's him done for.
When Barzun quits his post in disgrace - as he surely must, with immediate effect - angry mobs are bound to line the route to the airport, booing and pinging potatoes off his windscreen and screaming threats such as "How dare you get bored of eating the same thing quite a lot!" and "Lamb idiot!". At one point Barzun will briefly glimpse a child tearfully cradling a Maris Piper and silently mouthing the word "Why?". Only then will he realise the almighty scale of his depravity.
The outraged reaction will only reinforce how hurt we are by his statement. We've spent decades trying to fight the impression that we're all bad-toothed idiots who spend our lives trapped on a foggy rock in the middle of the sea, forcing down a neverending procession of essentially indigestible dinners. Any British person who has ever spent time with a group of Americans will have long since committed to memory every minuscule detail about the Clean Air Act of 1956, on the off-chance that the F-word will be egregiously brought up in conversation. And of course our teeth are bad. You can't be expected to gnaw on this much inedible pastry without picking up at least a couple of war wounds.
Oh, sure, the foodies will tell you that the restaurant scene in this country has never been so vibrant; that the UK now plays host to some of the world's most exciting chefs; that television cookery has changed how we all feed ourselves. And they might have a case, but that doesn't necessarily mean it's a good thing. On the contrary, I'd be willing to argue that horrible food is precisely what made this country great.
Look. In 1588, the British navy successfully fought off the Spanish armada. They had little plates of squid and we had scurvy, but we did it. We held off the mighty forces of Napoleon, fuelled by nothing but vegetables that had been cooked in porridge. Winston Churchill is a national hero, and he looked as if he spent his entire life forcing fistfuls of raw suet into his dribbly maw. But now that we can all eat food that won't deplete our calcium and kill us by the age of 35, who's the country's biggest hero? That's right, Olly Murs. It's a disgrace.
True, pockets of this great nation still endeavour to produce food catastrophic enough to make household animals run away in dismay. Tesco, with its cheese-and-onion doughnuts. Iceland, with its frozen curry served in a frozen Yorkshire pudding. Me, that time I ate three raw fish fingers because they were taking too long to cook and I was hungry. But these days we are few and far between.
We should be proud that our food traditionally doesn't taste of anything and has the texture of damp gravel. We should be overjoyed at the fact that we can pack offal into a pie dish and call it a pudding. We should all have the line "finished a quarter-pint of colourless tapioca as a 10-year-old while dry-heaving relentlessly" in the achievements section of our CVs. Because we've had to work at enjoying food. We've really had to labour at it.
Any idiot can go to Italy and experience the instant gratification of well-made pasta. But not us. We've had to learn to like this muck, the same way that other people have to learn how to enjoy whisky or jazz. And, like those people, we have become much more sophisticated as a result. That's right, I'm basically saying that over-boiled cabbage is our Thelonious Monk. Don't overthink it, but I'm right.
Realistically, we should embrace this, just to spite Barzun. If anything, we should actually make our food even worse. We should be able to buy Wagon Wheels that contain fish paste instead of marshmallow. We should pump Bovril into ice-cream cones and sell it to children. We should genetically modify chickens to produce eggshells filled with damp brussels sprouts.
But, still, let's not get too angry at Barzun, cooped up in his embassy like some sort of potato-fearing Julian Assange. He made a mistake, but now he's paying the price. Because if there's another thing we're really good at, it's cack-handedly trying to win people over.
By claiming that he doesn't really like lamb and potato, Barzun has basically given every chef in the country free rein to serve him endless godawful riffs on the dish in a mistaken attempt to change his mind. Realistically, lamb and potato is the only thing the poor man will ever eat again. Don't cry for Matthew Barzun, for he's already dead.
'We should be overjoyed at the fact that we can pack offal into a pie dish and call it a pudding.' Photograph: Alamy