There are several reasons that I’ve been falling out of love with eating out in restaurants. Years ago, the chief reason was probably having to put up with some git puffing foul cigarette smoke into the air at a nearby table. Quite why anyone would consider it good value to pay through the nose for food whilst at the same time killing their nose’s senses of smell and their mouth’s sense of taste with smoke is quite beyond me but I certainly didn’t appreciate their forcing me to do it and it ruins any financial outlay. Mercifully, in a more enlightened modern world, this reason has in some cases disappeared though Spain still suffers from it.
Alternatively, somebody might still turn up with poorly controlled children. English children are notoriously poorly behaved in my admittedly Victorian view and generally quite noisy in restaurants. I see no point paying £50-£100 on a meal for two only to have the ambience utterly ruined by Satan’s Little Disciples running riot. Once again, a complete waste of money. The French, bless them, seem much better at controlling the fruits of their loins. In fact, pretty much everyone seems better than the British at controlling their offspring. [possible exception: America.] Freedom of expression is complete nonsense and has been taken much too far. freedom of anything should always be tempered by respect others. End of sermon!
Our neighbour chez nous is also a near-neighbour in Spain and is very fond of eating a menu del día in Spain for lunch. Typically, this might be, say, 15€ for three courses, including wine. Nominally that represents exceptional value. It is, of course, usually pretty straightforward food that could easily be done at home for even less but my main problem with this approach is that, frankly, we don’t want that much food at lunchtime. I’d much rather have a simple bocadillo [sandwich] at lunchtime.
Evenings would be better for a few courses but, quite apart from the fact that I have to stay sober enough to drive, I frequently come away from a restaurant feeling a little disappointed; disappointed by the fact that I’ve just spent a fair wedge of the folding stuff on food that I could’ve prepared for myself, in a fashion suited to myself, at a time that suited myself and accompanied by wine quantities that suited myself with no need to drive. We have, on occasion, found ourselves waiting in a busy restaurant in the evening almost interminably for the bill when we just wanted to pay and get back to Guillaume to collapse.
So, that’s lunchtimes and evenings dispensed with, then. 🙂
Fear not, there are exceptions to my general restaurant exclusion rule. One exception might occur when the food might be sufficiently complex for me to want to leave it to someone else, though I don’t mind a fair amount of complexity. The more likely exception these days occurs as a result of the unavailability of some ingredient that simply makes it impossible to do at home. It was this exception that led us off to Gruissan today. Whilst I prefer not to spend 15€ on a menu del dia 3-course lunch three or four times a week, I positively jump at the chance to lash out wads of cash, in this case 70€ , on a wonderful French plateau de fruits de mer. I love seafood and it is simply almost impossible to get raw seafood fresh enough to attempt any semblance of such thing in England. Here is food that you positively must play with, much to your mother’s disgust. They are great fun and today we set off to Gruissan on the Mediterranean coast to get one.
We know the seafood shack at Gruissan from a previous visit; no airs and graces, just shared trestle tables that get loaded with spankingly fresh seafood. Our plateau consisted of a crab [cooked – don’t panic], raw oysters, raw mussels, cooked prawns and cooked whelks, all washed down with a decent bottle of white wine. Incidentally, many years ago I accidentally tried eating a live whelk and, trust me, they are much better cooked. For those not keen on any raw food, there are other cooked options, such as fish baked in a salt crust. Here is one. 😀
Ah, now the salt – yes! The colour of the water surrounding the metal fish above is, in fact, pink. Your eyes do not deceive you and I haven’t been messing with the colour balance. The pink colouration is entirely natural. This wonderful seafood shack overlooks a salt pan at Gruissan. As the intensity of the salt increases with the evaporation of the water, the remaining solution turns pink. Curious but photographically very interesting. I cannot remember quite why we used to use the phrase “sky blue pink” when I was young and I certainly never thought I’d be able to use it literally but here, I can. Again, other than using a polarizing filter to intensify the colour a little, this is entirely natural.
Francine snagged a picture of a huge mound of salt, together with a couple of folks very considerately standing by it to show the scale, that had been harvested. I’m assuming the rusty looking tractor, with what appears to be metal rear wheels, has something to do with the process but don’t quote me.
Incidentally, as we were there taking pictures after our wonderful plateau de fruits de mer, one of the guys at the restaurant came out and emptied a pan load of used salt back into the water. Great recycling!