The pastry crumbled in my mouth like a piece of shortbread. The cheese was creamy with just the right amount of sharpness to open my taste buds. A hunk of bacon sliced through the soft flavours and dominated my palate. This was Quiche Lorraine in Alsace Lorraine, where the French pie was created, and it’s one of my most favourite meal memories.
The cup of hot tea that accompanied my meal was parfait. It warmed me up after a morning of wandering around Colmar, France on a soggy sightseeing day. A rainy grey day better fit for staying inside a café until it was time to head to a bar. (But this was France so bars were probably open earlier than in Canada.) It was the end of December but there was no snow. The weather was more reminiscent of spring, like this past Friday and Saturday in Calgary.
I was in Europe with my friend Digger. She was on exchange with a German university and I went to visit her at Christmas in the mid 90s. Colmar was a short bus ride from Freiburg, Germany and we decided to check it out. The French town is picture perfect: old houses and buildings painted with colours you could eat – mustard and orange and lemon. A canal runs through the village and little postcard bridges span the dark water. A French town that you want to take a million photographs of even though you’d never be able to capture the historic shadows of the street corners and building blocks.
Digger and I were both 21 but only one of us was naïve. Almost every man passing us on foot invited us for a drink. At first I thought everyone was so nice to the tourists when I had heard otherwise about the French. Until Digger told me the guys were hitting on us.
It had been raining in Colmar since we got off the bus. Not full-on pouring but more like little drips here and there. Enough to make us cold after hours of our shoes on the cobblestones. We were hungry too and wanted to take a break.
We found a restaurant in the centre of town. I’m not sure how we picked it. The outside was a dark brown, unlike the other bright buildings, and the inside matched. It was dimly lit when we walked in but a fire was a bright spot in the corner of a room. Zut. There were no tables near it.
The place was almost full but we found a small table in a back room. There I ordered my meal – the one I still dream about today. The incredible Quiche Lorraine. But it wasn’t only the lunch. It was the combination of food, company and history. This was the first time I had been to Europe and I was overwhelmed by the antiquity that was everywhere I looked in France, Germany and Switzerland. I was a history major in university and I studied this stuff but to be this close to it was unreal. Everything was so old (not the quiche I had been served) that it boggled my Canadian mind.
After our lunch Digger and I headed outside and back into the rain. We got dessert to take out, chocolate crepes, from a small restaurant down the street. (You know that European way, it’s cheaper to take food away than it is to eat it in the restaurant.) We stood under an awning of a furniture store and dug into the sweet treat. Chocolate spilling out of the French pancake and dripping down our chins.
“Cochon!” yelled someone on the other side of the street. “Cochon!”
He was calling us pigs.
Alors, there was the rude Frenchman that I heard all about.