Okay, this is not directly about food or wine, but it is on my mind and it relates. Speaking another language is exhausting. That is the long and short of it. It struck me today, while I walked around Chateauneuf de Pape trying to pick a place for lunch that just asking for simple things becomes arduous and a moment for potential embarrassment. All I have to do is ask if they are still serving lunch and then ask for a table for one. I will say, if they had a bar at some of these restaurants, it would help the single traveler immensely. Okay, I cannot change that, so I walk around looking carefully at the menu, the patrons, the staff, the atmosphere, and practicing.."are you serving lunch? can I sit over there?" I must sound ridiculous!
That said, people are nice, particularly people who own and operate small restaurants in tiny villages in Europe. Don't get me wrong, I have encountered rude people everywhere, but rarely is it someone who welcomes you at a restaurant. Despite that evidence, I still fret before every meal, which is a great diet, by the way.
Today, I was reminded again, of how silly I am. I approached the restaurant, La Maisouneta on Rue Joseph Ducas, and I am welcomed. Do I ask if they are still serving? or, can I have lunch? no, I just smile and say "Lunch?". Urgh, Maria, all the practice!!! He smiles, very kindly, and says yes and indicates that there is space outside.
It is amazing how hard it is to say, "I would like the special."I think it through in my head several times, he approaches, and I start..."yes, yes, I ...would like...the salad...and the tagliatelle.....with pesto...and a glass of white wine." He smiles, and proceeds to point to the chalk board that lists those two items as the special,"le plat du jour." Well, that would have been easy, by why would I trust a thing like that? I saw that board, and I assumed it could not be that simple.
He brought the wine first, just the house white, but it was lovely. I really love the whites from this region, though they are lesser known. There is a wonderful mix of light floral, herbs notes, and some weight on the palate with a lot of minerality to make them great food wines. This one was no exception. And, with the simple salad of greens, marinated mushrooms and sundried tomotoes, it really shined.
Suddenly, my French was flowing a bit easier. I was seated quite close to the women next to me, as one often is in French restaurants, and I was eavesdropping. That sounds bad, but I can hear them, and I am alone...what do you want, I am only human! Anyway, they were silly, and sometimes they made me laugh, so they could tell I understood. Then it struck me, I understood! yay!
By the time the dessert arrived, I was explaining that I don't usually like panna cotta, but this one is so good that I cannot stop eating it. Okay, that is true. Another reminder that never and always don't belong in anyone's vocabulary (no, I did not say never, just generally). I know how hard that is, but this panna cotta was one of the very best desserts that I have ever had the good fortune to eat, so creamy, velvety, buttery, richness, with a vanilla caramel, with just that touch of burnt, oo la la...can't over use that phrase!
So, as I was saying, We were all eating dessert at the same time and laughing and talking about where we live, what we do, and how we love food...and, the owner came back and sat and ate his lunch with us. He brought a bottle of Lemoncello (remember what I said about the intersections of Provencal and Italian food?), and we all sat for some time chatting. I understood most of what they said, and when necessary we used my dictionary or hand movements to communicate our ideas.
Like when Valerie was telling me about local "cowboys," and I did not understand. She made two guns with her hands, made a "bang, bang" motion, and then blew the smoke off of the top of her pistols. I immediate said, "oh, cowboys!" We all cracked up...maybe you had to be there...
Anyway, I was delighted when they said my French was better than their English; it is a start.
Food, wine, and words...a good lunch!