It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.......
I have often been asked why we sold up in the UK and moved to France. Well, there
were many reason, most of them small and on the face of it, pretty trivial. However,
as a whole they all added up to sufficient cause for us to emigrate. Plan “A” was
for just six years, an arbitrary period that we felt would be long enough to see
if we really liked it, and not allow for dashing home with our tails between our
legs at the first pitfall.
One of those many reasons for us moving to France was to be able to enjoy the wonderful
food that is available here. If you have ever watched Rick Steins TV program of him
travelling north to south through France on a canal barge, you will have had an insight
into the wonders in-store for lovers of really great food. It stands to reason that
the quality of each meal depends largely where you choose to dine, there are of course,
some terrible places to eat, with indifferent food, poorly served in far from hygienic
conditions, but they are, thankfully, a rarity.
In France I have had the very best meal I have ever eaten, but also the very worst
meal I have ever had put in front of me. So far, the best was at a restaurant in
La Cocquille, “La Voyager”, shortly after we moved to France and the worst was at
a Tabac also in La Coquille the following week. But that aside, the general quality
of catered food is very high. One of my favourite eating places is in the town of
Nontron, under an hours drive from home. Believe it or not it’s at the Intermarché
supermarket café, where for the princely sum of nine euros you can take potluck with
their “menu de joure”, which is exactly what the locals do. The last time I ate there
the starter was a platter of three different patés with salad, followed by roast
leg of chicken in a sauce with puréed potatoes and broccoli. The sweet was a choice
from the menu, I had the banana and cream with chocolate sauce, but I could have
chosen apple tart or ice-cream. All washed down with a bottle of the local wine (one
There is a high usage of garlic in most of the French food we have tasted. Even innocent
looking Toulouse Sausages which look deceptively British (apart from the lack of
rusk) are very strong in that department and took much getting used to. We don’t
notice the strong smell on peoples breaths any more, I suspect it’s because ours
are now just as bad. On our annual trips back to the UK we have seen friends and
relations shrink back from us in a faint (well I hope garlic breath is the reason!)
as we approach.
Right from our very first visits to France we have always felt that food was more
expensive in the shops over here, however, on our last trip back we were shocked
at how much the UK prices had risen. So much so in fact, that we did not bother to
buy our usual supply of fresh foods to bring back with us.
There are some British foods which we crave that are not easily available over here,
such as pre-cooked items like pasties and meat pies or even gammon stakes. Our local
“Super U” supermarket, just up the road in Villebois, has recently opened a small
“British” section stocking many oral comforts for British ex-pats – at only double
the UK price. There we indulge ourselves in Cadbury’s fruit and nut chocolate and
ginger biscuits and oxos and Heinz salad cream and Bird’s custard powder and and,
well you get the pictures I’m sure!
When we become really desperate for something plain, we make the half-hour journey
to the “British Shop” near Brontóme, which keeps pretty much everything, but again
at a price. Their British white sliced bread is a particular favourite of ours.
I expect you are asking yourselves — why go to France and then want to eat British
food? Well, the answer is simple, it’s nice to have a change, something plain, something
familiar. I’m sure you too would soon get pretty bored if you were eating in a posh
French restaurant EVERY meal! So please understand, a simple plate of beans on toast
can become very inviting after a while.