Thursday 10th September 2010.
We spent a brilliant 4 days with Tony and Carol, an English couple who have been living in France for 20 years. They run a B&B in the village of Montblanc. As always with airbnb you’re never sure what you might get and when we arrived there was a b&b with dinner option that I could not resist. So each evening around 6pm we would start to wonder what was for dinner! And each evening at 8pm we’d “ooh and aah” our way to the table, where Carol would serve us with “oh, it’s nothing”. The conversations over the meal lasted for hours. It was like going to a dinner party every night!
Food has been an important part of this trip. In the beginning it was about how lovely French food, or Italian food is or how incredibly yucky sauerkraut is! When we were in Rouen we ate at a restaurant in the square. When we were in Luzern we ate outside on a balcony in the cold with our raincoats on, wrapped in blankets (the Swiss were all warm inside!).
When we were in Italy we ate in a restaurant on the side of the road where the italians waited for their takeaway, and we wondered what they must be talking about? They talked for the entire time they waited, maybe 30 minutes. All the time gesticulating, all the time looking into the eyes of their companion. And not just lovers, but friends (guessed from body language) and father, daughters, wife, husband. In Nice we ate by the fountain with the forgetful waiter (and Dev from Coronation Street!).
And then in the small town of Montblanc in the south of France we ate with people who cooked in their own kitchen for us and who wanted to talk to us and in this we have found something else lovely about food – companionship. Maybe that’s what the Italians were doing as they waited for their food.
This is a new way of thinking about food. Not a necessity, with it’s preparation a chore. Instead, every morsel is a piece of joy, a vision to behold, to touch, to taste, to swallow, to digest, to be nourished by. And to nourish those you share it with, those you talk with as you eat – the companions on the journey of a meal.
Last night I watched a Frenchman prepare a simple meal of ingredients he found in the cupboard of our current host’s kitchen. He moved with passion and joy, present in every moment to the vegetables he chopped, to the oil he poured, to the laughter he evoked.
I want to take this new food home with me! Not the recipe, not the ingredients, not the cooking tins or the cooker, not even the Frenchman! What I want is the joy and love of food.