Whenever you see crossed chives you are in trouble
Never eat anything bigger than your head
Cookery Quote
We should all be eating less meat and better meat

Nostalgia is alive and well

Wind back for thirty years or so and Francophiles were already cursing the onward and unstoppable march of Macdonalds and their bright golden arches. Food lovers grizzled about the loss of the small, local French restaurant that offered a dish of the day and provided a good lunch for the hungry traveller. Suddenly such places offered le Pizza or le Burger and prices started to climb. It looked as if this would signal the end of idyllic rural France, and it certainly meant huge disappointment to many a middle class “Anglais”.
Mid March saw the “Concours International du Meilleur Boudin” in the small Normandy town of Mortagne au Perche, this is an annual event that I have wanted to attend ever since I learnt of its existence. This year I made the journey in the process of making an edition of radio Four’s Food Programme about black pudding. This three day homage to the black pudding had everything – 500 plus entries, puddings from Austria, Germany, Belgian, Ireland, Britain, France and, for the first time in 2013, an entry from Japan. I got to do some judging and I got to meet members of the Confrerie – the Chevaliers de Gout Boudin - they wore ceremonial red velvet dressing gowns trimmed with white fur, plus plenty of large medals and slick little hats with a buckle. The population of a whole region stopped what they were doing and set about glorifying the black pudding.
Sneaking off from the hotbed of pudding judging, I went for lunch with the BBC producer. We went to the Café du Theatre on Place General de Gaulle. The square was full of a funfair in honour of the Foie des Boudin and the café was full of people having lunch. Unpretentious food. Magnificent rillettes, large and greasy, a big helping of lard and flavour. Fantastic crusty ficelles, we scoffed three baskets of the bread. Then “entrecote frites” a heavily beaten out, and thus very tender, piece of meat. Cooked as asked for “à point” lots of flavour, immaculate chips. A small pot of creamy peppercorn sauce. A pichet of red wine. A bière panache. A coffee. Add tax and the bill came to €34 “toutes compris” - in pounds that is £14.50 a head. Service was brisk and friendly. Two girls at the next table made some fascinating choices – one mixed green salad, one portion of frites, two chocolate mousse, a shared bottle of regular Coca Cola. The Café du Theatre makes a splendid job of lunch. Good simple food and modest prices have not been wiped out by the march of fast food joints and that is something we can all feel nostalgic about.

Café de Theatre, 7 Place General de Gaulle, 61 Mortagne au Perche, France (Tel 02 33 25 06 21)

Charles Campion - Sunday 24th March 2013

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