As I relax on the roof top terrace of my hotel in Reims. I’m taking a moment to reflect on the way we ‘eat’ in Australia compared to France.
Often we are so rushed and to use a common expression ‘time poor’ we eat on the run or at our desks. Not to say French people do not also have incredibly busy lives, so why is food, the process of shopping, preparing and consuming such an important part of daily lives for people living in France?
Of course, I am on holidays so I have the time to enjoy and savour my meals.
At 7.30 am this morning I ask the concierge of the hotel, “Is there a boulangerie close by?” “Madame we have many.” As he replied he did not reach for the stack of tourist maps on the counter instead he pulled out a folder and flips through a few pages before settling on a different map. Why this map I wondered? Well, it is a map specifically showing the boulangerie and places to purchases champagne. He continued and demonstrated on the map “these are all the boulangerie, this one is the closest but Madame if you love yourself you will walk to this one,” circling one about 3 blocks away. As Madame does love herself or more to the point loves good food I set off to wander the streets of Reims, with just a hint of daylight peeking through.
Within 5 minutes I had arrived, to a queue quietly forming out the door. Young, old, men, women all were patiently waiting for their morning pastries and bread. Some of the more organized actually reused the paper wrapping from previous days. But one thing everyone did; greet the sales assistant politely and no phones in anyone’s hand, well except myself as I was on a photographic mission, Pardon s’il vous plaît.
Bonjour Madame, and then a discussion would ensure of which I cannot repeat, purely as my French is limited. Judging from the demonstrations, smiles and ‘oui’ some pretty in-depth questions were asked as decisions were made in relation to the best pain for the day.
The queue was orderly and incredibly patient, especially as this Australian Madame pointed and tried her best to say at least a few words of acceptable French, and then proceeded to take photographs, after asking permission of course.
The quality of ingredients, attention to detail are so obvious here in France and it would seem, appreciated by all.
The time taken over lunch, when I was studying here last year we would every day, take 2 hours to enjoy 2 or 3 courses (dependent on the meal planned for the evening), 1 glass of wine and time. Time to chat and ask how the morning had gone, our expectations for the afternoon. Enjoy the moment and savour the food. A tradition that many continue to value every day.
Taking time also honours where the food has come from, the labour put into production and shows respect for the hard work involved.
I will write more on this subject as it is one I am passionate about. I want to try and make leisurely eating more part of my everyday.
But for now, I must leave you here as there is gâteau waiting for me!