Food glorious food. I’m surprised I haven’t dedicated a blog to this before now.
As the girl whose idea of dieting is salad followed by a mid-afternoon maxi-banana split and who once ordered Chinese at 1am ‘just because’, it’s clear to see that I am victim to an ongoing (and often excessive) passion for food.
I jest not. According to my family, my first words as a baby were ‘more-bread-and-butter’, which admittedly were in reality perhaps pronounced more like ‘morebednbutter, although I’m sure it was clear to everyone involved as I bashed on my high chair and shook my baby-fat fists that I was not referring to a quiet lie down.
You would think I’d grow out of this kind of behaviour as time goes on. Oh no. Before friends’ birthday parties from my childhood right through to my teens, I would always be subjected to the motherly (and in retrospect necessary) ‘don’t over-eat’ speech, but I’ve always remained powerless to resist the delights of a running buffet.
Even now, the phrase ‘all-you-can-eat’ summarises my ideal date, although possibly not a first date if I ever wanted to see him again...
Anyway, as a result of my bottomless stomach, poor Mumma Dove has been continually forced to endure countless impressed (possibly to the point of mildly disgusted) remarks from a selection of stunned parents. ‘Doesn’t your daughter eat well?’ ‘Ella really does like her food doesn’t she?’ ‘She was the last one left sitting at the table- even the arrival of Choo-Choo the Clown wouldn’t prise her away from those pork pies!’
So as you can imagine, the prospect of a year in France; home of the gourmet, could only prove a recipe (clever...) for disaster. Firstly, school dinners. Forget turkey twizzlers, the French do it properly.
With a hugely-subsidised four course meal every day for just 3 euros a time, it’s a wonder every school child isn’t obese! I sampled stuffed avocado, fresh king prawns and many exotic-looking salads for starter and elaborate main courses such as rabbit (which I happily tucked into much to the teachers’ amazement).
Desserts included homemade pastries, fluffy coffee mousse and triple chocolate gateau, followed of course by a variety of cheeses and (always black) coffee. Amazing.
In fact, the cheese there was so good that I forced myself to give it up for Lent, if nothing else to stop a well-established ‘camembert-a-week’ regime and attempt to shift my steadily-growing fromage baby.
I also gave up chocolate, which turned out to be okay due to the discovery of, wait for it...speculoos. Now, you’re probably wondering what this word means. No, it isn’t French for ‘slightly broken glasses’ or ‘optician needed’. Speculoos is basically Nutella, except, and here’s the beautiful thing for all you Lent giver-uppers, it isn’t chocolate. It actually tastes like crushed biscuits, and is a wonderful accompaniment to just about everything. Crepes, strawberries, porridge, even toast (apparently!). So if ever you find yourself on a Dover-Calais booze-cruise, do grab a jar of speculoos from the nearest hypermarket, I implore you. Honestly, you won’t look back.
I’d like to apologise now if I’ve made you hungry. Sitting with a bowl of carrot and coriander soup and a couple of crackers whilst a Lindt teddy looks on from my fruit bowl (where he was strategically placed amongst the oranges and apples to invoke a sense of guilt), I’m definitely torturing myself here.
Despite many previous complaints about UHT longlife milk and a serious lack of salt and vinegar crisps, France really doesn’t (often) disappoint with its nourriture (yes, that does mean food). With so many rich flavours and choices, even Café Rouge in Canterbury can’t compare. England, eat your heart out.