The Difference Between an English and a French Lunch: An English View

France and England are separated not just by 22 miles of cold water, we are two nations separated by an afternoon meal. We’re two slices of bread divided by ham and cheese.

Lunches, like religion and fillet steaks, are done differently over there. Head to a provincial French tourist town at a lunchtime and you will likely see spatterings of confused first-time visitors. Perplexed, they stand grouped together on the cobbled streets outside closed boulangeries, charcuteries and other guidebook-approved pleasures of French life. Having come to buy baguettes, they find the shops closed at 12 pm. At 1.45 pm they return, but leave again baguette-less.

Out of shot, and out of the way, sit France’s 35,000 bistros. One for roughly every 1,771 citizens. It’s a fall from the glory days of the 1960s, when there was one for every 250. In the bistro sit the baker, the butcher, the artist and the civil servant taking time to lean back in their street-front seats. They draw the chilled Beaujolais across their tongue and take another slice of saucisse. “A one-hour lunch is sacrosanct,” says Harry Eastwood, Paris-based food writer and co-founder of Petit Pois Cakes. “Two [hours] is not unusual.”

Source: The Independent, July 11

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3 responses to “The Difference Between an English and a French Lunch: An English View

  1. Carol Kushner

    Eric you are perfectly correct. On our last trip to France (in April) we arrived in Saintes about 11:45 and went to a local bistro on the river-front, hoping for an early lunch. The owner introduced himself and then his cook and announced: “We are going to have our lunch first and then we will take care of you!” He did provide us both with cold drinks before tucking into a very substantial and tasty looking hot lunch with wine. When they had both finished eating and drinking, both sat back and lit cigarettes, chatting merrily about the cost of travel by train to Paris, the advantages of small town life over life in Paris, and how much the owner was enjoying a less hectic life-style in Saintes. At 1:00 pm people began to fill up the tables and the lunch service began in earnest. By 1:30 — all tables were taken and the owner’s wife had arrived to take orders, and kibbitz with the diners. I have to say it was worth the wait.

  2. Michael Gundy

    How can anyone govern a nation that has two hundred and forty-six different kinds of cheese?
    Charles De Gaulle

  3. I once e-mailed Dennis Gartman, the financial letter writer few on this post will have heard of, after he made a comment about the French election. I said that the average Frenchman had a much better life than the average American. He wrote back saying I was a lunatic and that no place on earth was better than the US. Who wouldn’t rather share Ms Kushner’s experience every day rather than eat in a food court?