When you mention France, the thought of great food and wine springs to mind. Virtually everywhere, from small villages to the great city that is Paris, has at least one fantastic restaurant within a short distance. They, nearly all, serve fabulous regional cuisine, usually offering great value for money.
However what if you are vegetarian? In the larger towns and cities, no problem, there is usually an option open to you, even if it means eating non French food. In rural areas the situation is less easy, because the local Restaurants are often owned by families who, not surprisingly, cook French food. As French cuisine is based on meat, fish and shellfish, and vegetables are cooked either to a pulp or are pureed, your options can be somewhat limited. For example, we had a vegetarian friend staying with us a little while ago. Being an omnivore it hadn’t occurred to me that there may be a problem, until making a booking at our local restaurant. We went through the menu with the waitress, who insisted that fish and shellfish were acceptable, until we eventually arrived at the conclusion that their typical 4 page menu contains only one option, omelette in two flavours (and not the ham one as she recommended as “it only has a little meat in it!”).
So what is the solution? Well, no problem if you are self-catering as all the local markets and supermarkets have a variety of excellent fresh seasonal fruit and vegetables, much of which is local and, this being France, of the highest quality and flavour. The supermarkets also offer tinned and preserved produce, usually in jars, with a great choice of vegetables, pulses and beans. The freezer sections offer a good choice of both single vegetables and mixes such as ratatouille. If you search a little further, a selection of nuts, both raw and processed, can be bought along with a selection of dried mushrooms. Of course for the non vegans the selection of cheese could make your eyes spin!
If however you don’t want to cook, there are some options, other than omelette and chips! A number of the fast food outlets here offer a salad cart, which provides a selection of freshly made tasty fare. Some of the local restaurants offer a Buffet option where you help yourself, again similar to the salad cart.
The choice of accommodation you make can also be a good solution. Rather than a hotel, which generally has an attached restaurant, with fixed menu, why not choose a Bed & Breakfast or Chambres d’Hotes, as they are known here, that offers an evening meal (table d’Hote)? There are several that provide vegetarian cooking only, and the bulk of the remainder, particularly those under foreign ownership, will, on request, provide an excellent vegetarian meal as they are not tied to the fixed menus that the more formal kitchens are. The internet is an invaluable tool for this as most B & B’s will have a website detailing what is available.
So, if you are unsure whether France is for you because you are not sure what you will be served up, don’t be. There are many options which, with a little planning, will enable you to come and enjoy France, even the rural areas!
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