Lunch under the plane tree in France

Published by Emma Lee-Potter in on Thursday 11th August 2011

French shops pride themselves on their service. Shop assistants always greet customers when they arrive, check whether your purchase is a cadeau and wish you a cheery au revoir, bonne journée when you leave.

My favourites are the amazing patisseries, where the displays look like a work of art. At Anne’s, in Dieulefit, the lovely proprietor is so charming that her customers don’t mind how long they wait to be served. Her pizzas and tartes aux framboises are so renowned that the queue often snakes out of the shop and down the pavement.

When we get to the front she always greets us personally, compliments my teenagers on their French and waits patiently while we fumble to find the right number of euros. She packs everything up into exquisite paper parcels, tells us a bit about her time working in a London hotel and says she looks forward to seeing us soon.

My latest discovery is the amazing D.Cochet (above) in the town of Crest. Yesterday we bought a tarte aux poires there. The smiley assistant wrapped it in a dashing purple box and we hurried home. An hour later we sat with friends under the plane tree at the House With No Name, the terrace where generations of local farmers have sat and put the world to rights over a glass of Pastis. My teenage daughter brought out a home-cooked red pepper and courgette flan, rosemary potatoes (a la Jamie Oliver) and salad, then cheese (always served before the dessert in France) and finally the tarte aux poires. And yes, it was every bit as delicious as it looked.

PS: On the down side, the rodent problem at the House With No Name continues. My daughter rushed downstairs two days ago to report that she had actually spotted the noisy loir (a dormouse). Most nights we’ve heard it scratching and scurrying about busily in the roof but this time it had been brave enough to sneak through the roof insulation and into her room. She’d woken up in the middle of the night to see its bushy tail disappearing back into the tiles. Eeek. Monsieur Noel, the amiable pest man from Montelimar, arrived promptly that afternoon in his immaculate white van, and got cracking on the problem. Whether the loir dares to show his face (or tail) again remains to be seen…

6 comments so far

  • Gosh that boulangerie looks good even by French standards. Glad to hear tht work has progressed on the house. It sounds like you’re having a lovely summer.

  • Ah…again…heaven…even with dormouse. The smallest creature scuttling round the roof can sound like an elephant. We once stayed a night at friend’s unfinished (well, barely started) house in Brittany, and what with the rodents, and ghosts of Resistance workers who had been shot in the woods behind, not an idyllic French experience. Unlike this wonderfully evocative tale of your lunch. And how great that your teenagers both speak French. Thank you again for brightening the gloom here. Jackie

  • I’m glad you thought the boulangerie looks good too, Karen. It’s definitely the best we’ve found this summer – just a bit too tempting. Work has progressed a lot (still some way to go) but we’ve really enjoyed it. I hope everything’s going well for you too. I was thrilled to hear that Tout Sweet has been published in the US. I mentioned it here a few days ago and hope it sells lots.

  • Thank you so much, Jackie. The pest man told us that he gets lots of calls from English people. Maybe we’re too squeamish about dormice and other wildlife that goes bump in the night!

  • Reminds me of our first few nights at Gerna Emma when I was convinced that the mice in the attic wore clogs as the noise was so loud. Soon solved and has remained so ever since with the acquisition of a wonderful tabby kitten (named Spider after Whistle down the Wind) who at the ripe old age of fifteen continues to keep the pesky rodents at bay.
    Lunch sounds idyllic, especially sitting here in Lancashire with the usual horizontal rain and howling wind….typical August weather.

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