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Posts from the ‘Potpourri’ Category

une etoile pour une table au sud dans marseille

When visiting France, which is usually twice a year for two to three months each trip, I eat lunches in restaurants. Last winter (2016) I was on the Côte d’Azure for 90 days, and I ate lunch 89 times in restaurants.

I have eaten some very very good meals in France. I have swooned. I have eaten some terrible meals as well. I do not believe anyone who says, after visiting France, “All my meals were wonderful in France!” Nonsense.

Most of the meals I have eaten in France have been ordinary. I can say the same for the United States: I live in Portland, Oregon, a foodie city, acknowledged as such in Portland by its own citizens and by the national press that frets about such characterizations. I have eaten many many ordinary lunches and dinners in Portland. Too many.

A charge can be made, I suppose, that I am not choosing restaurants very well.

20160929_004_marseille

In any case, I have found what I  call a ‘sweet spot” in value for restaurants; it serves as an ur-meal for later experiences. The impeccable service that the restaurant provides and the quality of the food–the flavors, the freshness of the ingredients, and the surprises–combine to make a memorable experience at an excellent price. But wait, there’s more!

meant to fly? hardly, but we have the train ride

“My heart is warm with the friends I make,
And better friends I’ll not be knowing,
Yet there isn’t a train I wouldn’t take,
No matter where it’s going.” ―Edna St. Vincent Millay

“Rail transport is a means of conveyance of passengers and goods by way of wheeled vehicles running on rail tracks. In contrast to road transport, where vehicles merely run on a prepared surface, rail vehicles are also directionally guided by the tracks they run on. Track usually consists of steel rails installed on sleepers/ties and ballast, on which the rolling stock, usually fitted with metal wheels, moves.” —Rail Transport

The train service in France is good, generally reliable, and cheap. I have no need for a car there when I visit. The Metro and RER in Paris and the PACA service on the Côte d’Azure will take me where I would like to go. One must wait sometimes for the train or bus to arrive; timing a trip with public transportation can sometimes be tricky; and setting a destination for a small village nestled in the mountains somewhere might be impossible without a car. However . . . the train or bus and both can add to the adventure of a trip. (Click on any photo to see it larger and in more detail.)

All train routes along the French Riviera between Cannes, let’s say, and Menton pass through Nice, France. A train to Grasse, the perfume capital, for example, which cuts inland at Cannes, starts in Nice. (Click on any photo to see it larger and in more detail.)

But wait, there’s more!

checking out colors of chagall

What would it be like to hang in an art museum? Imagine: suspended by nails and screws on the wall there, crucified, you listen as people come and go talking of Michelangelo.

“A painting in a museum hears more ridiculous opinions than anything else in the world.” –Edmond de Goncourt

I wonder if the inane comments of patrons are more often a figment of movie magic. The scene in Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris comes to mind where a minor character, a know-it-all, waxes away about a painting, impressing most everyone, except our hero, who sometime earlier, had the magical opportunity to talk with the painter himself and had learned the original intent. A priceless moment it was and a wonderful and funny observation on museum commentators.

My experiences in museums are different and more common. Most patrons in a museum are quiet, worshipful. The visit is like going to church. One takes a reverential pause in front of a painting and after a suitable moment moves to the next. (Click on any photo to see it larger and in more detail.)

“Color is all. When color is right, form is right. Color is everything, color is vibration like music; everything is vibration.” ―Marc Chagall

But wait, there’s more!

mangeons et buvons, car demain nous mourrons !

“If after the manner of men I have fought with beasts at Ephesus, what advantageth it me, if the dead rise not? let us eat and drink; for to morrow we die.” –King James Bible: 1 Corinthians 15:32

I spend a lot of time in France, because I like to eat. It has a long history of offering good food in venues other than the home. The word “restaurant” is French after all and comes from the verb restaurer, meaning to restore. Restaurant is the present participle meaning “restoring.” (I am a former English teacher.)

I can eat in Portland, my home town, where a significant number of restaurants and food carts offer a crazy range of meals and snacks. In fact, the Washington Post placed Portland, Oregon on its front page as the number one food city in the United States.

“Part of the secret of a success in life is to eat what you like IMG_0670and let the food fight it out inside.” –Mark Twain

A simple question can distinguish how one eats in France from how one eats in the United States: “What do you wish to eat for lunch?”

To answer the question, I suggest a difference exists between making lunch and cooking lunch. All generalizations are dangerous, even this one: “Lunches are made in the United States, and lunches are cooked in France.”

“I often wonder why the whole world is so prone to generalise. Generalisations are seldom if ever true and are usually utterly inaccurate.” ― Agatha Christie, Murder at the Vicarage

Eating lunch outside the home in the United States means hamburgers, sandwiches, pizza, salad, burritos or tacos, or any number of other kinds of fast foods. The meals are made rather than cooked; they are put together. (Granted, an hamburger is cooked but the method of its preparation is correct.)

IMG_0669Eating lunch in France, on the other hand, means a one to three courses cooked meal, often with red, white, or rosé wine. One can expect a variety of fish, depending on where you are, or a variety of meats.

Yesterday, I ate lunch in an ordinary bistro called Coqlicot; I ordered the plat du jour that happened to be a cassoulet (beans, duck, Toulouse sausage, and ham).  Today, I went to another restaurant La Transat and had its plat du jour, lamb chops with potatoes and stuffed tomatoes. One day I walked into a restaurant and ate its plat du jour, kangaroo with tagliatelle noodles. These meals were offered in a town much smaller than Portland. Except for the kangaroo, they are typical.

“The only time to eat diet food is while you’re waiting for the steak to cook.” –Julia Child

The two menu placards shown here hang outside the bistro Le Brebant in Juan-les-Pins. It is a small place that caters to the locals, mostly workers in the neighborhood and those who live nearby.

A cursory examination (with translations) will show the variety or entrées and main dishes that it offers, all cooked, all faites maison. (Click on any photo to see it larger and in more detail.)

Here are a variety of typical lunch entrées I have eaten, ranging from scallops to salad with heated goat cheese to tartare de saumon with edible flowers to un rouget gelé (mullet). (Click on any photo to see it larger and in more detail.) But wait, there’s more!