Friday, December 05, 2014


A Roadside Café

Elizabeth David (1913-1992), French Provincial Cooking (1960; rpt. New York: Penguin Books, 1999), pp. 151-152:
I vividly remember, for instance, the occasion when, having stopped for petrol at a filling station at Remoulins near the Pont du Gard, we decided to go into the café attached to it, and have a glass of wine. It was only eleven o'clock in the morning but for some reason we were very hungry. The place was empty, but we asked if we could have some bread, butter and sausage. Seeing that we were English, the old lady in charge tried to give us a ham sandwich, and when we politely but firmly declined this treat she went in search of the patron to ask what she should give us.

He was an intelligent and alert young man who understood at once what we wanted. In a few minutes he reappeared and set before us a big rectangular platter in the centre of which were thick slices of home-made pork and liver pâté, and on either side fine slices of the local raw ham and sausage; these were flanked with black olives, green olives, freshly washed radishes still retaining some of their green leaves, and butter.

By the time we had consumed these things, with wine and good fresh bread, we realised that this was no ordinary café routier. The patron was pleased when we complimented him on his pâté and told us that many of his customers came to him specially for it. It was now nearly midday and the place was fast filling up with these customers. They were lorry drivers, on their way from Sète, on the coast, up through France with their immense tanker lorries loaded with Algerian wine. The noise and bustle and friendly atmosphere soon made us realise that this must be the most popular place in the neighbourhood. We stayed, of course, for lunch. Chance having brought us there it would have been absurd to stick to our original plans of driving on to some star restaurant or other where we probably wouldn't have eaten so well (my travels in France are studded with memories of the places to which I have taken a fancy but where I could not stop—the café at Silléry where the still champagne was so good, the restaurant at Bray-sur-Seine where we had a late breakfast of raw country ham, beautiful butter and fresh thin baguettes of bread, and longed to stay for lunch—inflexible planning is the enemy of good eating). But here at Remoulins we stayed, and enjoyed a good sound lunch, unusually well-presented for a café routier.

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