As I write, we are driving back up France. Why it feels like an upward journey is hard to understand, but it does. The holiday was manifique, the sun shone, the ghosts glided and the children are little brown berries. I did not sleep as much as I intended, nor did I read as much as I had hoped, but we did photograph all the new collection of clothes over 10 days so I forgive myself in the other areas.
Moving through France as a vegetarian is nearly as challenging as being in France as a recovering alcoholic. I am assuming there are people who do not drink 24/7 or smoke themselves into a husky fog, but I have yet to find them in the haze of cigar smoke and 20% proof air.
So we did not go out much to restaurants as mozzarella and tomato salads have lost their charm along with dried up pieced of old toast with a sliver of goat’s cheese. Ah, such a bitch… But our journey back took us to a Gites last night. A Gites is a place where you can rent a room for the night. We stopped at the Priore. A beautiful old farmhouse with a working farm built in 1027. Very lovely, with those pale, flabby cows so notorious to the area.
We had to eat. The day’s drive had not produced much that could be consumed without massive weight gain, guilt or fear so we asked out very chatty hostess if she knew where, as vegetarians, we could eat.
“Mais oui!” and she telephoned the nearest La Routier.
“What’s a Routier, Mummy?”
“A place where truck drivers eat…”
Excited, and greatly buoyed by her discovery, she bounced into the room, the phone cord about to snap with the distance it had stretched.
“They can do Truite sans arettes”
I turned to Baptiste: “What is that? Non stop trout?”
“Non. Trout without bones.”
“Ah…. No, thank you. What about an omelette avec frites?”
Quick consultation et “Voila! “
She was thrilled as she was snapped out of the room by the exhausted phone cable.
We piled back into the car and careered along beautiful country roads to a truck driver’s diner.
“We are the vegetarians.”
A couple of heavily jowelled and gloriously bellied drivers nodded wisely at each other. Would we like “une assiette de charcuterie?” (A plate of salami to start?)
We were waived towards the cold buffet. I bravely headed west to give it a look. Boiled eggs, sweaty and black-hearted, minced beetroot with lumpy magenta mayonnaise, black sausages curled menacingly around themselves with very sharp knives lying alongside, soggy old potatoes with long-dead parsley morsels clinging bravely to their edges.
“We had a big lunch. Just the omelettes, sil vous plait..”
The omelettes and frites were lovely. (Ironic) Mine was “baveuse” which means raw and lying in a pool of fat. It was a meal where you just did it and tried not to think about what was being eaten. The children found ketchup the colour of dried blood and Baptiste found me mayonnaise and Tabasco to mask the taste. We earwigged the waitress discussing the difference between the smell of donkey and horse meat, and when we finally gave up on the fizzy fromage frais, paid the bill with smiled nailed to our mouths, everyone smiled and waived, careful not to knock over their carafes and nodded to each other that they had met some vegetarians in France.