(June 26) It’s always struck me as funny that people used to say the sun never set on the British Empire. Be-cause the fact is, the sun pretty much never rises on what remains of said storied empire. When it comes to rain and cold, London makes Seattle look like Riyadh.

I raise this point because a smart aleck Brit got me to thinking about England recently. I hate to bash the Brits because when it comes down to it, I think they’re the only true friend the U.S. has left in Europe.

But just as the U.S. has its Berkeley, Britain has its people to whom Berkeley thought processes make sense. I think they call them “gits.”

Matthew Engel is one of them.

Engel is a columnist and U.S. correspondent for the The Guardian, a British tabloid that makes Russia’s Pravda look like something edited by the Fox television network’s Bill O’Reilly. I don’t know why a newspaper would hire a reporter to cover a country he obviously detests, and apparently the editors of The Guardian don’t either. So they hired one to cover the U.S. whose disdain for his beat goes several steps beyond hatred.

Engel took on California in a recent column. That’s fine by me. From Berkeley to John Walker Lindh, there’s plenty to snipe at in the People’s Republic of California (provided you’ve applied for your snipe permit, paid your whine tax, bought your hot air stamp and then paid your English-as-a-first-language penalty).

But of all the things Engel could have chosen to attack, he selected California strawberries.

And that got me to thinking. There are just some things that certain people shouldn’t do.

Take Elizabeth Taylor, for example. She’s probably not an expert on the art of romantic commitment. Or Mike Tyson. Don’t think anybody’s gonna buy his rewrite of “How to Win Friends and Influence People,” even if the crayon marks in his illustrations stay in the lines. (And can you imagine reading of such a book? It might be the only place on earth where Tyson would be harder on the ears than in the boxing ring.)

Similarly, there are some things that people representing specific countries shouldn’t do. The French, for exam-ple, have created some exquisite cookbooks for people who like slime and cholesterol. But were they to update “The Art of War,” the book would end up having just one word: “Surrender!”

And it occurs to me that no Brit ought to disparage any strawberry, particularly not one from California. Or Spain, whose strawberries Engel also lampoons. Anyone who thinks kidneys are an acceptable food has no right to judge any other country’s cuisine.

But Engel spent an extensive column in June doing exactly that. You can check it out online at www.guar-dian.co.uk/Columnists/Column/ 0,5673,727271,00.html. It’s called “Raspberry to strawberries.”

The only thing about U.S. produce that Engel likes is the color. He concedes that visiting a U.S. supermarket is like stepping into a riotous garden. And then he says our produce departments use mist systems that leave the products “douched.”

And that’s about the best he has to say.

He compares the flavor of California strawberries to Polyfilla, American tomatoes to “cricket balls without the yumminess” and red delicious apples to “moist papier mache.”

Well, maybe he has us on that last one. But there are plenty of other varieties of apples here in the U.S. that are exquisite. And I’ll tell you what. I’d take the mealiest, blandest red delicious apple from the bottom of a cull bin over a British breakfast any day. And my heart will thank me.

Engel goes on to say that it’s “probably easier to score dope at a Mormon Tabernacle Choir practice” than find any good produce in the U.S. “The fact is that supermarkets dominate the business, and much of what they sell is disgusting,” Engel writes.

Every country has certain things it does better than other countries. Even France. (Surrendering is something.) The U.S., which feeds the world, has honed the art of agriculture. And last winter, the U.S. ski and snow board team whizzed right past the rest of the world to claim several gold medals in the Olympics. This on a breakfast of California strawberries.

So if America wants to learn how the art of inbreeding can make one’s leaders jug-eared, buck-toothed and fer-ret-faced, we’ll turn to Brits like Engel. Or better yet, we’ll visit Bill Clinton.

Until then, Engel can take his frumpy old British strawberries and enjoy them in his land where the sun doesn’t shine.