Exciting Lunch

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Who knew lunch could be so exciting?

Julia Child said it best, I think, when she spoke of the North American philosophy of eating versus that of Europeans: it is a truck stop, not a way of life. Since I am one of those people who live to eat (definitely leaning more to the European side of things…), one of the main reasons I love traveling is for the food. Something as simple as lunch can be a once-in-a lifetime experience as opposed to a drive-through, one-handed fuel stop on the way to another activity. So, with that in mind I hoped it would be interesting for you if we offered up some of the memories we have of our trip from midday snacks that we savoured overseas. We won’t include a recipe this week, but if you want Martin to offer one for any of the delicacies we mention, he is a trained professional and could do that. (He did have a birthday this week and so he is a year older and a year wiser!)

Our first lunch in London was in Covent Garden market. The lunch itself was just a panini at a little café, but with the atmosphere of the market with its stalls and street musicians made the experience a memorable one. We munched and watched a classical quartet tease the crowd, the violinist chasing people who merely passed by, cajoling them into joining in the fun.

Lunch in Oxford was most studious, in the covered market in the old town where we enjoyed our first Cornish pasty. Cornwall is not near Oxford, but this little English “fast food” has been around for generations as a lunch item. (It was first made for miners so they could have a hearty lunch on the job – meat, potatoes and “swede” or turnips, wrapped in a pastry package). We sat with students reading their texts or plunking on their keyboards as they did their work the juxtaposition of the old and the new was pleasing – I was glad to know they could blend in a place where tradition and learning were intrinsically linked.

We had a gastro pub lunch with our friends the next day, at a place called The Mole and Chicken. Gastro pubs have become a new trend in England, offering far more than the ubiquitous fish and chips or meat pie but still in that cozy atmosphere everyone loves. We shared frog’s legs (it’s true – they really do taste a bit like chicken) and I had sticky toffee pudding for dessert. I think the name gives you the idea here – it is every bit as decadent and delicious as it sounds! We caught up on old stories and toasted our future dreams and generally whiled away the afternoon, the way one should when gathering with old friends.

Lunch in France is even more important of course, as in most of Europe everything EXCEPT the restaurants closes in the middle of the day for two to three hours. (Remember, there it is a priority to eat and a necessity to enjoy the food.) We needed very little convincing to join in the fray, so one day we had a picnic on the beach in Biarritz, complete with a lovely bottle of Bordeaux, three kinds of cheese, duck pate and the obligatory baguette. We watched the Atlantic come crashing in on the sand as surfers tried out their technique in the bay.

Perhaps the most overwhelming and drawn-out lunch we enjoyed was our day at the Borough Market. (We will be writing more about this place!) There were so many stalls with so many lovely things we had a hard time deciding, and we nibbled our way around with samples to keep from starving. I tried Welsh cheese, Spanish ham, Northern English apple cider, Turkish delight… and that was all before we actually bought our actual lunch. Finally we chose an Italian ham sandwich with arugula on a crusty roll and an Indian lamb kebob, followed by a glass of wine at a little wine bar and some chocolate truffles to give us sustenance for the afternoon!

When we went to Spain, we did of course sample tapas, but that too is a whole other column… one day, though we just skipped right to dessert, and all I can say is wow! We had the most flaky, expode-in-your-mouth pastry I have ever tasted. It was what the French call a mille-feuille, meaning a thousand sheets (of pastry) and you could sure tell this had a lot of layers. In between was vanilla pastry cream, and the whole thing was dusted with icing sugar. It was dangerous to eat, for if you inhaled as you took a bite you could choke to death, but then if you exhaled too fast you could topple it over, so it required extreme concentration. Our laughing at the sheer decadence of it didn’t help, of course we had to share it because there was no way even two gourmands like us could manage the whole thing alone!

As you stop at a drive through today, or munch on your sandwich at your desk as you work, perhaps you might want to ponder the value of taking time out to enjoy a real meal. Wouldn’t it be lovely to stop for even a few minutes and savour a nice morsel as you de-stressed with friends? Don’t you think we deserve it?? I know we don’t quite have the hustle-and-bustle of a big city and all its variety of delicacies, but we certainly have some lovely little shops and a good market in season that offer lots of flavourful fare. Maybe we could start a new trend, and revolutionize North America from right here in Kelowna! Maybe all that pastry went to my head, but it does seem like a noble cause to me and my tummy.

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About the Author

Kristin Peturson-Laprise is a customer experience specialist by trade, which means she is someone passionate about people having a good time. 

Her company, Wow Service Mentor, helps businesses enhance their customer experience through hands-on training, service programs, and special event coordination.

Kristin enjoys her own experiences too, and that is what she writes about in this column. She and her husband Martin Laprise (also known as Chef Martin, of The Chef Instead) love to share their passion for food and entertaining.  

Kristin says:

"Wikipedia lists a gourmand as a person who takes great pleasure in food. I have taken the concept of gourmandise, or enjoying something to the fullest, in all parts of my life. I love to grow and cook food, and I loved wine enough to become a Sommelier. I call a meal a success when I can convey that 'sense of place' from where the food has come . . . the French call that terroir, but I just call it the full experience. It might mean tasting the flavours of my own garden, or transporting everyone at the table to a faraway place, reminiscent of travels or dreams we have had."


E-mail Kristin at:  [email protected]

Check out her website here:  www.wowservicementor.com


The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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