When I first arrived in France lunch was long, 12 - 14h. I've noticed that it is fast becoming shorter. This is a good thing when talking about France catching up to the norms of global efficiency and productivity, but another thing when talking about eating quality food on the run.
Over the last 4 or 5 years there has been an incredible growth of really bad quality sandwich joints cranking out enormous quantities of industrial meat sandwiches with soggy lettuce, under ripe tomatoes, something which is apparently meant to be an egg slice, gallons of petrol-tasting mayo and all served up in rubbery, white, industrial, bread. Actually sometimes the bread is so hard that you end up the next day with a mouth full of ulcers. Don't even get me started on the Panini craze!
I say YUCK!!
I was brought up with rye or brown bread, never mayo in sandwiches but rather butter or cream cheese ( Philadelphia...mmmM!!), alfalfa sprouts, pastrami, good hams, cucumber, walnuts, celery, home made tomato relish... For my wholefoods, caftan-wearing mother, white bread was about as close to sin as one could get. She would read health books with names like " Get Healthy" or " Wholefood Heaven" which as early as the 70's were already proclaiming the health hazards of over refined white flour breads, and especially for women...So why is white industrial bread making such a comeback? And in France??
The other new lunch time phenomenon which just about has me crying is the fast pasta movement. Pasta is the food of the gods!!! It is the very essence of "soul food."
The same mother, who also had a Cordon Bleu, would recite the history of food to me..I knew at 5 years old that it was the Chinese who gave pasta to Italy, thank you Marco Polo ( that big butch soldier throwing down kilos of noodles - love him, woof woof!!). Further, and my mother's favorite, was that the Italians taught the French to cook. She told me the French court was full of chefs brought from Italy to feed the kings of France - one of those things that really gets conversation heated at a dinner party in France...try it!! Anyway, as a child in the 70's when fresh pasta just wasn't seen in NZ my mother was making her own with a hefty fangled machine brought back from Italy in the fifties. Ever had homemade lasagna pasta? Pasta infused with saffron, stuffed with fish, tomatoes, aubergines....? There is nothing to match it. Pasta sauces were made with the best veg, the best meat reductions and the freshest of herbs. When my mother was cooking Italiano or Gretta Anna, no one matched her...I won't talk about her scary "Grasshopper Pie" today, that's another story!
So back to these fast pasta places where they take a cup of industrial pasta, throw it into a vat, rather like a chip basket, of boiling water ( when is the water changed??!), overcook it and then get out a PLASTIC pocket of your selected sauce, duly heated in the microwave, and serve it all in a cardboard box. I'm sorry but this is an insult to Italy, an insult to our tastebuds not to mention detrimental to health. Carbs, carbs, Es, colourings, preservative, sugar, sugar, sugar!
To be brief, I have been searching lunch time solutions when I have about max 30 mins to refill! I work in the Chartrons area of Bordeaux so there is no shortage of excellent restaurants but there IS a shortage of time. Sandwiches go straight to my hips.Urgent solution needed.
I recently heard a buzz about a new Italian deli in rue Notre Dame where one could eat great salads, pasta, fresh sandwiches and all for a great price, La Bocca. Yesterday I took myself to try it out. I was immediately enticed by the hand written blackboard on the footpath offering lunchtime specials..the inside of La Bocca is refreshingly charming in the form of dark green walls, shelves stocked artistically with Italian produce such as rices, pasta, sauces, chocolates, wines, panettone...the lunchtime menu offers varied salads all with fresh vegetables, grilled peppers, delicious hams. Sandwiches are made to order.There are also pastas and risottos. I was going for something hot and opted for the artichoke risotto.
Lunch took about 25 mins.We didn't do dessert, but I admit to being brutally tortured by offers of pannacotta, chestnut tiramisu etc etc. We watched students, business people come and go, often ordering what looked like really healthy sandwiches stuffed with Italian hams, cheeses, tomatoes, salad, etc. The staff are friendly, full of smiles and tempting offers, amazing!
My friend and I both decided life was ok...and even better when the bill after coffee was around 8 euro each.
I am thrilled to have found La Bocca, my new watering hole, and encourage you to try it...beats a greasy panini any day!!
See my artichoke risotto recipe...