July 10 - Eating our way across France
According to my sports app, we are burning 3,000 extra calories a day riding our bikes up the Cols in the Pyrenees. At least, that’s the excuse I’m using for eating my way across France.
The French do food differently. At the grocery, the cheese section goes on and on. And so does the meat section. The varieties are endless. We also had trouble finding a bottle of wine that cost more than $8 American.
Cafes are everywhere, even on mountain tops. As we arrived by bike at the seemingly barren 4,800-foot summit of the Col de Peyresourde, there was a cafe, ready with a full lunch menu. We obliged.
Then there’s dinner. The French dine late, and they dine long. We, by comparison, commit the unspeakable crime of dining and dashing.
Ten hungry cyclists from Oregon arrived at “Casa La Tom” (we are only a few miles from the Spanish border), which seemed from the outside too small to host our party. Inside, a spacious dining room led to a pair of even larger outdoor dining areas. ‘Pas de problem’, the waiter smiled at our big, hungry group.
We hesitated because we arrived after 7 p.m. and the restaurant was empty. In the states, that’s an ominous sign, Not here, where that’s the early end of the dinner hour. By 8 p.m., the restaurant was packed.
French restaurants offer a ‘fixed menu’ that includes an appetizer, entree and desert, all for one (reasonable) price. Half our group gave it a try. Mine started with a Caesar Salad big enough to be a meal, then an entrecôte (steak), finished off with a “crumble” - a berry cobbler. All the portions were big enough for two - or one cyclist!
The biggest difference in dining is speed. For the French, dining is a leisurely, social experience worth devoting an evening to - they do not rush through their meal. Our dinner ended at 10:30 - and we were ‘rushing’ the waiter to get our check.
I wonder what the waiter thought: “Those silly Americans, sprinting through their meal in less than four hours. Incroyable!”