It was heartening to spy through the mist from our friends Susan and Jean-Michel’s bathroom window in Strasbourg (Alsace-Lorraine in NE France) a sea of allotments stretching a hundred yards to the elevated road on the horizon.
Dotted with little sheds and pockets of green (but no sign of anyone working–well it’s winter!)–they at least were proof that vegetables are grown in this part of France.
Heartening in both senses–good news and good for the heart–after several veg-free meals eaten over a weekend in the restaurants of this ancient regional capital.
Meat is big here–the displays of it in butchers’ windows are impressive.
And often it seems little else on the plate.
True there is the chou (white cabbage)in the ubiquitous choucroute (sauerkraut) but that is not a fresh vegetable and it’s true there are potatoes but they are not an option for me.
Vous allez manger bien la-bas! [You'll eat well there!] we were assured enthusiastically by our friend and neighbor, Thierry, an amateur [fan] of good food when he heard we were heading to Strasbourg for the weekend.
Heavy–yes but bee-an!
At a reception in the celebrated Wine Cave Historique des Hospices de Strasbourg, the guide casually mentioned that there is more cadiovasular disease and Type 2 diabetes in this region than any other in France!
Our host in Strasbourg, Jean-Michel–(who by the way cooked me a delicious omelette for lunch on Saturday!)–said this part of France had the lowest life expectancy.
Cause and effect?
But it made me think how difficult it is to change ingrained habits….
The people of Alsace are clearly proud of their cuisine.
It reflects centuries of tradition and daily consumption, deeply connected with the customs and rural way of life autrefois (in times gone by).
But “in times gone by” the people (peasants) worked hard all day in the fields and the food they ate in this northern climate stoked their boilers.
Times have changed–but not the way of eating it seems.
Come to think of it a couple of days hard digging at the allotment would take care of at least two plates of choucroute–and there’d be some vegetables to see for the effort too!!