23 June, 2012
An army marches on its stomach
So do pilgrims. That is why for several nights in a row we were eating pasta. The hosts figure that as long as the guests are full, they will be happy. And we don't complain. You usually get what you pay for. But every so often you are lucky enough to encounter a hostess who takes pride in her cooking, and pleasure in seeing her guests enjoy their food.
Such was the case with M. et Mme. Delugin at Saint-Astier. We began with an aperitif, then melon, then pate, then lamb chops, potatoes and mushrooms, then salad, then cheese, and finally, fruit and ice cream with melted chocolate on top. Quite delightful! All accompanied by an excellent vin du pays served by a true host who gauged the consumption of his guests and fetched another bottle at the appropriate moment. Second helpings were pressed upon my Dutch friends who were happy to accept. And so was I.
I learnt another expression for the necessity of cheese with every meal:
Un repas sans fromage est comme une belle sans un oeil
I think I got that right. The host agreed with me that wine tasted better after cheese, and added, that for that reason, cheese is never served at wine tastings.
He was un chasseur, and the pate was made from the spoils of the hunt - deer and wild boar. One of his trophies looked down on us this morning as we ate breakfast.
From time to time, in the woods and in the cafes, I pass women with angular physiognomies that could have come straight out of Madame Bovary. And of course, they have. Or rather, their forbears have.
And our hostess would have been at home in any nineteenth century novel as a jovial farmer's or innkeeper's wife, beaming with pleasure as her guests enjoyed her cooking.
All in all, it was a delightful stay for 32 euros.
I had to walk one and a half kilometres back into town to find the trail. I contemplated taking a short cut across a railway bridge, but decided it was a bit risky. Just as well. Two trains passed soon afterwards.
As I crossed the road bridge into town, I was impressed by the sight of the church and the houses along the river in the early morning sun. (See picture below.)
Then it was a pleasant walk beside the railway line, through the woods, and across the fields to Neuvic Gare where I had a coffee with the home-made muffin our hostess had sent us away with.
After that, I walked along the main road for a while, and then up the limestone escarpment and onto the plateau for a pleasant stroll in the woods. And then down again, and an hour's march along the highway brought me into Mussidan.
Tonight, I am in the municipal gite. For six euros, it's very basic. The Dutch fellows are here as well. The aroma from their pizza is wafting my way, but I am going out to a restaurant.