Wallflower Dispatches

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The Charming Mountain Goat – Plat du Jour

May 30th, 2008 · No Comments · Charming Mountain Goat, French Food, Provence, South of France



The litany is always the same. When asked: “What did you have for lunch today?” Piglet 1 and Piglet 2’s response always starts with: “For starters we had…., followed by….and for dessert they gave us….” Fill in sample words such as Ratatouille, Mousse au Chocolat and Crudités and you get a fairly accurate idea of the kind of competition I am up against when I get out the pots and pans in the evening to feed the troops.


Every morning, M. Le Boulanger can be seen walking to school. To the left holding his hand: his beautiful black-eyed daughter Eloïse. In his right hand, an extra large old flour bag stuffed with freshly baked baguettes. After kissing Eloïse good-bye, the baguettes are delivered to the school chef to be eaten at lunchtime by the 400 or so children and their teachers. Equal care is taken in handing over both Eloïse and the bread.


The first time Piglet 1 and Piglet 2 were fed in school, they reported with large wondrous eyes that they had watched the school chef peel potatoes for themselves and their 398 friends.


La Belle Gourmande is a very small restaurant in the Provençal Mountains, no bigger than the average UK living room. Its chef also one of the two butchers (!) for this tiny village. The butcher’s wife runs the little restaurant, taking orders and serving the food.


On our first visit with Piglet 1 and Piglet 2 we were a little worried about their enthusiasm response to the food on offer. Although a dish such as Sanglier aux Cèpes sounds tantalising, it remains essentially wild boar with mushrooms and therefore not high on the wish list for respective 7 and 9 year olds. When presenting the Plat du Jour, Mme Belle Gourmande proceeded to start with the children: “Je vous propose…” and her offer was both enthusiastically accepted and eagerly eaten by both piglets. From time to time we are actually begged to take them there since the food really is out of this world.


Everyone knows that the French love their food. Watched from up close, on foreign soil say in Central London, when acted out by rotund men and women with posh accents, it is food snobbery. Enjoyed here – despite the best efforts not to succumb to all that is on offer – it is just one of the joys of life.


It is surprising to see that sometime someone somewhere in France succumbed to the speedy producer of food called Mom and Pop McDonald’s and allowed them to open their chains. This must have happened at a time when fries where still French and not a disputable symbol of Freedom. Hidden behind architecturally superior buildings, these outlets are often a case of ‘blink and you miss it’. Enter one of them and you feel as if you are taking part in something highly illicit and damaging. The French equivalent Quick is always found in industrial areas near DIY and electrical shops and not in the ancient backstreet workshops of haute cuisine where the real artists work.


Shortly after Piglet 1 and Piglet 2 had started full time in school here, they asked if they could go and choose a snack for their upcoming school trip. Bracing myself for the inevitable argument about E-numbers and lack of nutritional value, I followed them with a heavy heart. Catching up with them in the cheese section I found them discussing the merits of various spreadable cheeses and the finer points of Italian cured ham. I felt strangely proud and self-conscious as I watched these two items roll along the checkout for payment.


Nowadays, if I want to reward them for something, I cook them baked beans and shower them with salt and vinegar crisps.


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