France Is Closed On Sunday
It’s a wonderful thing to have a lunch invitation on a Sunday in France. That’s because when you’re driving around the countryside on any given Sunday you have the impression that the entire population of this corner of France has been beamed up to some passing comet, so deserted is each and every town. The streets are empty, the houses are shut up tight, and there’s not a restaurant or café open anywhere. But now that we’ve been here a while we realize that while we’re wandering forlornly, looking for entertainment or sustenance, everyone else is indoors, having Sunday lunch with as many of their family and friends as they can muster.
But this week we were among the lucky ones to be inside those closed doors, tucked away safely in the warmth of a Sunday meal. “To get to our house just turn left at the sheep,” our hosts told us
“then turn again at the horses.” Although we do see horses from time to time, this is the first time we’ve seen sheep on the road right around here, so our visit was off to a great start before we even arrived.
And when we did get there, cheerfully late from stopping to admire the neighing and neighboring animals, Spring had arrived just before us.
Already in good spirits, we soon had to ask ourselves: was there ever a cheerier sight than
a properly dusty cellar filled to overflowing with well-chosen bottles? The sight of the dust alone put me in a lovely state of anticipation, let me tell you. Because where there’s dust in a cave there’s wine that’s been carefully selected and laid down for a long winter’s nap, wine that’s bound to be excellent.
The rest of the house was impeccably dust-free, but equally inviting. Sitting at this table, looking out at a misty February afternoon, it was hard to imagine a nicer way to spend the day. A soup of Jerusalem artichoke, called here topinambour, set the tone for refined dining.
The turbot season has begun, hence this delicious riff on a Gordon Ramsay dish: turbot and asparagus with asparagus and spinach sauce. I could eat this all day, so green, so spring-like.
But no, because then we wouldn’t have been able to eat
a lemon tart with raspberries and fresh cream. Are you feeling sorry for us yet? I thought not.
If this is what everyone else is doing whilst we drive around on Sundays, ouch. Now we know what we’re missing, will we ever be able to go back to our nose-to-the-window wanderings? Well, sure. We don’t know enough people yet to be on the inside looking out every Sunday. Plus, the reverse view, outsiders observing, orphans gazing wistfully, is very instructive.
There’s a huge debate going on right now in France over Sunday store openings. Some stores are starting to stay open, a lot of people are quite upset about it. The main reasons cited: store employees need to be with their families on Sunday, the fabric of French society will unravel if families aren’t gathered around the table on Sunday afternoons. Me, I’m for closed shops and big Sunday lunches en famille. As one commentator put it “it’s so important to have one day a week that’s not about money.”