We were all of like mind. Four middle-aged women came together from our ILA classes to find a place for lunch together, and we all wanted real food, not a sandwich. Wandering up Grand Rue Jean Moulin from the school, we found such a place easily in La Place de la Comedie. Although there were plenty of tables outside under umbrellas, Isabel from Spain wanted inside because she was cool, and the rest of us trailed inside to where the waiter showed us to a bare plain corner inside a crowded room. I tagged along into the warmth with regrets as I was wearing shorts because the days are already warm, the constant humidity makes me feel warmer, and maybe all that iron I’ve been taking has finally kicked in, but I went happily because I am feeling pretty chill these days and I’m courteously Canadian. 

Neuroscience says that people who speak two or more languages find they have a different personality in each one. So  can I hope that’s my French-language self? Does everyone who switches to another language share the same new temperament?

Kokkeb from Holland, Cheryl from Pittsburgh and we other two try to speak French together. Isabel keeps lapsing into a mixed Spanish-French or just plain Spanish and sometimes we don’t notice right away. Nothing seemed to interfere with lunch being voluble and convivial. Yes, only one person drank wine, from a slim bottle of red waiting on the table for us. Cheryl paid only five euros for it.

We all ordered from the days “bistro” menu for €12 for two courses. My entrée was a bowl of creamed mussel soup with a few fresh broad beans and finely chopped raw cucumber thrown on top. Delicieux. Cheryl had a quinoa salad with translucent cucumber slices laid on top, and Kokkeb had something nicely presented in a preserving jar. I forget what she had, but everything on every plate greatly pleased the eye. The cooks behind that high counter of that simple place are amazing artists. After the mussels,  I had ordered the salmon to follow as the main plate. Kokkeb the same. “After all  we’re in the south of France, and if you’re not going to have seafood here then where. ” Beautifully grilled and flavored fish arrived served on top of a nest of Thinly shaved and sautéed celery root. Conversation kept returning to the quality of the food and an agreement to meet again for lunch Wednesday. Cheryl wants to return to the same resto (slang for restaurant). She left a five euro tip and the approximately 50-year-old waiter gave us a huge smile, a bow, and an English “thank you.” Tipping, we had been told, is not done here

It was a good-size meal. Kokkeb–the physician–wondered how the French stay so slim yet eat meals like this. We concluded, perhaps erroneously, that it’s because they only eat the one real meal a day,,and that’s at lunch (diner) here in the South of France. We were nourished in the best sense: a lively two-hour lunch lightened by learning, laughter and mutual goodwill. Some of us at that table have terrible solitary lunch habits at home, such as a sandwich taken alone at a desk. I’d gladly spend €240 a month and more to have such life-extending lunches with new and old friends five days a week.

Although I fought it, there was a different price to pay. The post-prandial dip rolled in. I eventually gave up my planned evening with the girls and at 4 pm caught the bus home for a nap. First I bought a four-pack of pens because I’ve lost two since Sunday, and I stopped at Fairview Cafe where I also forgot my red fabric shopping bag on Sunday. The sucrine I was so,happy to find–the baby butter lettuce–had gone bad. But the barista greeted me immediately as I walked in with the words, “Ton sac a rouge est la.” Such courtesy and attention to people. Pieces may be flying out of the centre with the centrifugal force of my current life in Montpellier, but sufficient napping and it will all come out all right.

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