Central eating in the summer…

Sometimes I feel that life is just too short to write a blog. The effect of puffy white clouds, which pose seemingly stationary, on a clear blue infinity, house shutters closed against the afternoon sun and the indolence created by the lazy intense heat turns a phrase such as “dog day afternoon”into a lucid description of the moment, as opposed to a forgotten movie title. The last few days have been such “dies caniculares” which is the reason that my keyboard looks like a relic from Miss Haversham’s computer room. Never have its expectations been less great. Having given up the thought of writing I gave myself up to the joys of summer eating. Simple, well run hotel restaurants have a hallowed place in the pantheon of French eating, sometimes with good reason. Over the last few days my faith in them has been renewed, luckily without flames dancing above my head. “Formules” or set menus at varying prices are part of the eating landscape in France and at the suitably named, Le Rabelais, I took the opportunity of choosing an option that allowed me free rein at  a buffet of hors d’oeuvres  followed by access to a similar buffet of desserts displaying a plethora of tiny jewel like creations confirming that  the pâtissiers’ skills are alive and well in Fontenay le Comte. All this on a sunlit terrace overlooking well kept gardens with the azure blue of the summer essential, a cooling pool, showing through the white picket fence that now must legally surround it. I can’t imagine that the now obligatory fences have reduced drownings but they certainly save on legal fees. The variety offered by the French bureaucracy buffet is as varied and imaginative as any restaurant, though only offering pleasure to the creators rather than the consumers. However, in spite of the bureaucrats’ efforts, lunch on a sunlit garden terrace is hard to beat particularly when the eye is as pleased as the palate. I have read recently that certain chefs in France are enraged that their customers seem to be more interested in photographing the dishes served to them than in eating them. We may well have to “check in” cameras and phones before being seated in the future. The pleasure of the al fresco lunch was equalled by that afforded by lunch in the dining room of “Le Central” in Coulon, a small village in the Marais Poitevin. The specialities of the Marais are eels, frogs and snails which are not universal crowd pleasers. However, although the very good kitchen at “Le Central” offers a raft of dishes starring these unloved creatures, the menu is stuffed with good things that will bring joy to those not yearning for a plate of strangeness. A very good veal chop or perfectly pink carré d’agneau might follow an entrée of quails and langoustines or half a dozen perfect Marennes oysters served with dark bread and Echiré butter. This is calm, friendly cuisine bourgeoise  served in an unstuffy atmosphere by young people – this is “correcte”. Days like these are the other side of the card from our normal rustic domesticity. In the final analysis I prefer the latter although there are moments, when I appear to have three pots doing different things on the hob whilst the oven is also working away on a different mission, when I could happily sit down at the white linen and wait for something delicious to appear on the table in front of me,  served by the kitchen burnt hand of another for a change.

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About Food,Photography & France

Photographer and film maker living in France. After a long career in London, my wife and I have settled in the Vendee, where we run residential digital photography courses with a strong gastronomic flavour.
This entry was posted in Cooking, Cuisine bourgeoise, Digital photography, eels, food, Food and Photography, Food photographer, France, French countryside, harmony, Landscapes, lifestyle, oysters, Patisserie, photography course, Photography holiday, Uncategorized, Vendee, Writing. Bookmark the permalink.

39 Responses to Central eating in the summer…

  1. Your description of the food has me salivating. I’d like several plates of the “strange” and the “good things”. However, it’s the first picture that makes me want to step out on that road and walk around.

  2. Your post make me want to have afternoon tea at The Drake Hotel in Chicago!

  3. Tandy says:

    Now I am longing for France!

  4. Hey Roger, I sure appreciate your writing as well as photographing these delights. However, if ever in doubt, Eat and skip writing and photographing! :

    ps. Don’t take chances, eat desert first!

  5. Mad Dog says:

    The chefs should be grateful that people want to photograph their food, though perhaps it’s flash photography that they object to.
    Those look like delicious hors d’oeuvres 😉

  6. Lovely post, most evocative of graceful dining. My inner ignorant Englishwoman had a quick chuckle at the idea of eels, frogs and snails not being universal crowd pleasers.

  7. We all need to get away from our ‘normal rustic domesticity’ from time to time and it looks as though you found an excellent way to do it! I have a wonderful memory of a dish of frogs’ legs eaten not far from the Marais Poitevin.

  8. ceciliag says:

    speechless with envy, no not envy.. ugly jealousy and it is going to be such a long time before i visit civilisation again.. but thank you and how do you take such wonderful shots in a restaurant, beautiful light too but do they mind? c

  9. Délicieux!
    Everything looks delicious and your recollection of the restaurants and meals just make it better. Thanks for sharing 🙂

  10. ChgoJohn says:

    The differences between our cultures’ views of lunch is remarkable. There, you dine. Here, we “grab something” for lunch. People just do not expect, nor look for, a fine, 3 course meal for lunch. It’s a shame because we are really missing out on something special.

  11. Michelle says:

    Who needs words when you have such lovely photographs?

  12. I’ve been tempted by the eels and lampreys on the menus in Bordeaux, but never been quite brave enough to order them…Should I, when we go back?
    Glad you’ve finally got a shot of summer down there…such marvelous light in these shots.

  13. Purely.. Kay says:

    I just love the photo… amazing

  14. a delicious sounding post, and your photos are excellent – top and tail!

  15. Oh, what I’d give to be sitting in that light, eating that food, no matter how briefly. Bliss.

  16. Karen says:

    The words never seem to escape you even when the desire is not that strong.

  17. You remind me of our recent trip to Spain. There were two people in our group that would not eat anything without first photographing it. They must have quite the travel diary; I can just hear the dialog: “Where in Madrid did you go?” “I’m not sure, but here’s what we ate there!”

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