The homeland of rustic pleasures…


…is called Normandy, rich beyond belief: In front of you – the salty sea full of fish and mussels, crab and oysters. In your back – le bocage, fat meadows populated by outstanding cattle, lined with apple and plum trees and farm houses dating back to ancient times that stand along rivers where cream and butter are flowing. Yes, it’s true: weather is rough out there. But life can be very sweet.

Perfect bread and butter: breakfast in Normandy.

You start your day with some buttered baguette, have a coffee (a cigarette?), then you start thinking about how to prepare the crab and when to open all the oysters you’ve brought home from the port in Grandcamp. You’ll start early because you’re eager to swallow down the shellfish and crack down on the crab. The latter are sold alive in France, so you’ll be the one to kill it. That’s why you put it in the freezer for at least 30 minutes before boiling it in a well-seasoned court-boullion (the beasts falls asleep in the arctic cold, well, that’s what I have learnt).

7 minutes per pound: cooked crab, still steaming.

Oysters go well with it. I had bought two dozens of them (no. 3 types, for all of you who are familiar with French oyster categories) in lovely Grandcamp for only 9 Euros (12 US$) which is ridiculously cheap. So here’s a Saturday lunch in Normandy, quite typical, I’d say; this is not luxurious but cheap, common food here:

24 oysters, one (hiding) crab: a nice lunch indeed.

They have restaurants in Grandcamp, too. I’ve been dining out at La Trinquette where all the staff was dressed in black and apparently mourning. I still enjoyed a nice three-course-meal for no money, sharing the evening with family and friends. It started here, with the great seafood salad as pictured below.

They call it "salade de pêcheur": happy fishermen of Normandy!

The next night, La Marée, sitting right at the port, made my day. Only recently, new owners have taken over and they are much more ambitious than their predecessors. My starter – a nice chunk of foie gras accompanied by dates filled with lemon skin stuff – was brilliant. And so was the St. Pierre as a main and the cheese and the dessert. So the message of this post is very simple: go to Normandy! Hurry up! Never mind the rain, the cold, the somewhat greyish feeling about it. It’s a real experience! And the food is…gorgeous!

Surprise in a seafood restaurant: brilliant "foie gras".

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