Many moons ago, on my first backpacking trip through Europe, I stayed with the family of a French exchange student that my mid-Western aunt hosted & with whom fortunately, she kept in touch. In a postage stamp-sized town in the Northwest, I had my first taste of the pleasures of a European lifestyle.
Mornings found us at the breakfast table with thick pieces of brioche from the local bakery, spread with apricot jam, plucked & preserved from fruit trees bordering an enormous garden plot that provided the fodder for salade & ratatouille every night during our stay.
Whether we were searching for sandals for our upcoming trip to the seashore, or plunging our hands into briny buckets of oysters, every trip to the market involved a long walk & a visit to the frommage counter where local goat farmers would wrap our purchases in a day-old issue of Le Monde. There were fresh goat's milk rounds rolled in herbes de Provence, redolent with lavendar nibs, thyme & savory, peppery versions, & a personal favorite--fresh cheese rubbed with ash.
All of this was quite an awakening to a gal who was quite familiar with the strong flavors of an onion-encrusted bagel with mustard & Muenster on Sunday mornings, but the absolute freshness of cheese right from the source simply stuck with me so that I can almost taste my anticipation as we unrolled each little newspaper roll of cheese.
Francoise, my beneficent French den mother (incidentally a nutritionist), talked passionately about the health benefits of beurre, & gave us quadruple kisses on each cheek at the train station, but not before packing a lunch of hard-boiled eggs, freshly baked baguettes, & seafood salad for our ride to Ireland. "You girls don't know how to eat!" she counseled while loading our backpacks with wondrous rations. If only you could see me now...