When we met up with Jason, whom Gaston had hired at Kananaskis Country 15 to 20 years ago, for supper on our one evening in Paris, he warned us about French mealtimes and their implications on the rest of one’s life if one does not abide with traditional working hours. He’s been in Paris for a few years now, working with producers and musicians there, as well as producing his own tunes in his studio, and he said it took him many, many many months to parse out the few cafes—mostly ethnic—in his faubourg, Montmartre, that remain open during the afternoon’s dark hours.
“I had to. Sometimes I don’t get out of the studio until 3:00 or 3:30, and after working for seven or eight hours straight, I can’t wait until 7:00 P.M.” Like many Parisians, Jason doesn’t cook much at home.
Not that any self-respecting restaurant in France would be ready to serve a guest at 7:00 P.M. Sure you can go in (with a reservation, bien sûr) and have a leisurely aperitif or two, but the staff are going to be bustling around you preparing for the evening for at least another half hour. It unlikely they’ll ask you for your order much before eight. But then, in France, they don’t rush you at the end of the meal by presenting the bill until you ask for it.
Since the early days in our vacation, we have adapted to local rhythms. Gaston now gets up in time to walk down to the bakery in our current village for croissants au beurre still warm from the oven. The neighbour’s dog, which greets him noisily and annoyingly on his return gets me up. We’re up and out the door for the morning’s adventures by 10:00 A.M., which is the earliest you can expect anything to be open around here. We’ve had a number of al fresco picnics on the side of the road while traveling from point A to point B. We consider that clever and efficient use of the extended noon-hour, which shows how un-French we are.
However, by the time the French lunch time is over and everything is once again open (by 3:00-ish, if you’re thinking commercial establishments), my lunch-time blood sugar levels start to dive. That, combined with the heat at the hottest part of the day and the searing sunshine and the day’s increased traffic on the roads, makes for clenched, knotted jaws and headaches for one, perhaps both, of us. Not completely adjusted, in other words. And the latest we’ve managed to eat supper at home is 7:00 P.M.