People keep asking me why I haven't written more about the food we ate on our trip.  They know me.  They know food is the number one reason I've been dreaming about going to Provence for the last twenty or so years!  Well, I have a confession to make.  To tell you the truth, I was a little bit disappointed in a lot of what we ate, on a good portion of our trip.  Especially in Paris, before I figured out what was going on.

You see, I still remember my other two trips there, in my teens and twenties.  I remember my very first bites of Croque Monsieur, fresh croissants, and non-iceberg salads with made-from-scratch dressings.  Pretty much everything I tasted made me moan with pleasure!  This time, very little did.  Eventually though, I had an epiphany.  It wasn't Paris that had changed.  It was me.

That other Becky, the one who went to Paris in the 60s and 70s, was used to eating things like Hamburger Helper, mushy white Wonder Bread, and veggies from a can.  This Becky is not.  The bar has been raised, my friends -- by at least a hundred notches!  This Becky is accustomed to eating eggs straight from her friends' chickens and geese, and cheese from the high-school girl's goats.  In the cooler months, my salad greens come out of my very own garden, and once I discovered how easy it was to whisk up a fresh vinaigrette right in my wooden salad bowl, all my bottled dressings went directly to the trash bin.

Not only has my cooking improved, so have my options for dining out.  I may live in a tiny podunk Texas town, but I have at least a half-dozen restaurants (probably more) -- restaurants that utilize fresh, local ingredients and change out their menus according to the seasons -- within thirty minutes of my house.  We've also got great new artisanal bakeries popping up everywhere you look.  So yeah, I guess that could have had some influence on my moan threshold, huh?

During our time in Burgundy and Provence, of course, we were eating almost all of our meals on the boat.  I thought the food there was quite good, considering they were serving almost 200 people, all at one sitting, most of whom were American senior citizens -- the kind that complain vociferously about anything that's too spicy or the least bit unusual.

On a scale of 1-5, I'd give them 5 stars for presentation, 5 stars for service, and 3 stars for flavor.  Unfortunately, I don't give a flip for fussiness.  All I care about is deep, rich flavor -- the kind that makes you moan.  I like food that's simply prepared, using the best of ingredients -- the kind of food you are more likely to find in French homes or in a Mom & Pop cafe that's off the beaten track, rather than in a Michelin-starred restaurant, in any area that caters to tourists, or on a large boat.

The things they did best on board, and I wished they had done more of, were the slow-cooked local specialties like Beef Burgundy and Coq au Vin.  These recipes evolved out of frugal homemakers' efforts to use what was at hand, and to tenderize the tougher bits of meat, such as a cantankerous old rooster that needed to be got rid of.  They were full of deep, rich flavor.

In general, the thing the French do best is their sauces.  I looooove their sauces, but not that tiny decorative drizzle that you see on so many plates these days.  That just pisses me off.  If the menu said my meat was going to be served in a certain kind of sauce, it durn well better be more than a decorative drizzle.  I expect to taste it on every single bite!

Oh, and then there's the bread.  They turn out a darn good loaf of bread in France!

Thankfully, our trip ended on quite the high note.  I don't remember who exactly left this comment (might have been my nephew Geoff and his wife Jessica, who are quite the adventurous travelers), but before we left, I mentioned that I was a little bit worried about our stay in Marseilles, for that was the only part of the trip where we would be completely on our own, and we knew absolutely nothing about the place.  Someone left a comment that said "Mark my words!  That will end up being your very favorite part of the whole trip, for you will be going in without any expectations or agenda, and it will force you to go out and explore, get off the beaten track, and make your own discoveries."  How right they were!
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Reviewed by juragan asem
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Rating : 4.5