Saturday, July 23, 2022

I Had Lunch: Daily Life in a French Village

That has been the sum of my days until 4 pm every day this week. What did I accomplish today? I had lunch. Here is what it takes to make possible a meal here. 

A bergerie in the forest of Les Landes

The old house

I sleep too late; the charger for my phone is too far from the bed, so I leave it unplugged. Phone goes dead, most likely from failed attempts to join an inexplicably complicated wifi, and alarm is missed. Or I did not set an alarm, sure I would wake up with the sun.

But the sun is perfectly blocked out by heavy wooden shutters closed tight against the light and weather. No wakey. I rush to dress and be ready before it is “too late”. People keep reassuring me that it is fine, I am on vacation and I should sleep. But there is the midday meal to prepare.

Breakfast is a bowl of café on my way out the door to help with the grocery run. We have to go to the next village over for a real store, and it is the tiniest, tidiest thing you ever saw. Every bar of chocolate and every package of lardons is beautifully aligned. There are three people at the butcher counter in the back, and the owner is either welcoming you in at the front while she rings up another client’s things, “Bonjour mademoiselle, bonjour monsieur,” or busy cooking delicious dishes for the deli in the back kitchen, like lasagna with clams and cauliflower baked with white sauce and cheese, crisp on top. She will be out shortly if the latter is the case.  The greetings are effusive and detailed with my host-mama; bisous, inquiries about health and the book of her son and the cat…

These are the best dry sausages (saucisson), the ones that look rugged and artisanal because they have the most flavor, the best density and chewiness:

One might stop and have a coffee while out in the morning. Here maybe, with the best chocolatines in the world:

We return home to begin lunch preparations, or rather, I am shooed out of the kitchen while the real cooking is done and only allowed to return when it is time to set the table. Nothing has changed. I came to help out for a week or so, instead, I am being fed and taken care of and only allowed to do the most basic of tasks. I am allowed to chauffeur, sweep and take care of the kitchen after meals. I am not sure where the rest of the morning has gone, maybe I walked to the Tabac* hoping to buy stamps in one more spot-no dice here either, or I ran to another village with my host-brother to pick up some forgotten item. One morning we visited the tomb of my host-papa, the amazing, energetic, full of life, Tano. His absence is so large now.

Lunch is glorious, a feast of ridiculous proportions for my American habits. Here or at my in-laws, there are three courses and coffee. Many days we have a glass of sangria with sausage or chips. Today we’ll begin the meal with langoustine, a salad of grated carrots and probably some of the graisserons with foie gras (which would be lumped under “pâté” in English and that would be a great disservice to humankind’s palette, but never mind). The next course is a meat course, chicken in a delicious sauce or merguez or an omelette or both because there are leftovers of one or the other. There will be lettuce and vinaigrette, and sometimes the salad has walnuts and cheese in it if it is part of the opening course. 

Then comes the cheese tray, with another piece or two of the oven-fresh baguette we picked up this morning. The choices range from ripe and creamy like the chèvre to hard and just as pungent, like the P’tit Basque. Dessert may be a lemon tarte or yogurt and coffee will follow. By this time it is 2:30 pm and the kitchen can be cleaned and naps taken. Are you getting the picture?

And if that is not enough, the beach is half an hour away. Capbreton, les Landes, town of the bakery/café aforementioned.

***The Tabac is a shop in which things like tobacco may be sold, but also all stamps needed to send mail and pay for traffic tickets. You can also find the newspaper, a variety of books, postcards and other odds and ends. 

For more photos, videos and petites histoires, come visit me on Instagram: French Dialogues.


  1. Love this! You take us along on your dip back into French life so colorfully, giving us tastes of so much so we can come along! And now I see you've been blogging regularly and I haven't been tuning in... need to catch up!

  2. How long will you stay? Lovely photos!


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