By Richard Ortiz
This is the last of the two-part series of the European travelogue of a dear friend and writer, Richard Ortiz, currently Provincial Director of the Philippine Civil Service Commission in Davao del Sur, Philippines. He shares his vacation in Austria, Germany, Portugal, and France which are in his bucket list of visiting spectacular sites of the seven continents.
Richard and I shared some finest and fiercest years as campus journalists of the “Today’s Carolinian”, the student publication of the University of San Carlos in Cebu.
Having lunch in France with family is truly heartwarming. Enjoy this read.
ST. AVOLD — Exactly a week before I will leave Europe, my sister, nephew, and I drove to France for lunch and some groceries for the pantry. Across the border, the architectural design of houses are suddenly different. The street signs are already in French.
We went to Cora, a mega grocery store like SM Hypermarkets where one finds not only food items but also dry goods and other merchandise. As we neared the Cheese Section, the bothering stink assails the nose if one isn’t European. But to the residents of Europe, the smell smacks of something truly delightfully delicious. Much like the way the Filipino not only likes but actually loves the smell of the bagoong, which has a stinking odor foreigners find offensive to the nostrils.
Particularly interesting, indeed, was the Cheese Section, as in here a wide variety of cheeses was available. After all, this was already France, and cheese is very much an integral part of the French cuisine, hence, cheese-making itself takes on a variety of procedures and added ingredients to make an array of different cheeses. All that stench had merged in the air at the Cheese Section.
Too bad I could not take any photo. It was forbidden. Much more at the bakery where a long array of French eclairs was on display, each almost a work of art in the manner of presentation. As I took out my camera, a French worker reminded us, under his haughty Gallic nose, that it was not allowed to take photos.
But my sister bought a tray of mixed eclairs and a pan of chocolate cake, and so I have photos of them just before we devoured them after dinnertime that same day in my sister’s place.
From Cora, we went to La Couscoussiere, a restaurant specializing in couscous, made of durum wheat in yellowish, grain-like granules, cooked by steaming so that when already cooked, the granules do not stick together the way rice does when cooked, but remain separate. Spooning them from the platter to one’s plate allows only a heap of couscous on the spoon to be transferred, as the rest of the grain outside the heap spills back, requiring more spooning if one wants more couscous on one’s plate.
A Moroccan dish, it is always accompanied by a stew. And so we ordered couscous and mixed vegetables in a tomato soup base plus grilled assortment of meat. I do not know for what reason, but couscous is popular in France. It provides a stark contrast to the haute cuisine that the snobbish French are known for.
At a nearby table, a group of diners were also enjoying couscous. The lilting language of French they spoke sounded musical. Spoken in almost nasal tone, the French language is the pride of the French, who have the conviction that it is superior language than any other.
So when it was time for the waiter to serve our order, he enthused, “Bon appetit!”