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