Sometimes the strangest episodes in life dredge up memories of another time, another place.
Today my cupboard is admittedly bare as bones. If I took a photograph of it, it would be an image of empty white shelves. I stood in front of it, wringing my hands, and wondered where my next meal was coming from when I remembered that there were still a few tins of food in the earthquake box down in The Escape Pod. As I went rummaging through the boxes stashed in the car, I found a box of pasta, a honey bear, a tin of tea, and a can of corn. All that’s left of my current foodstuffs.
As I took the pasta and the can of corn upstairs, my thoughts turned from being dismally sad about this moment to a memory from the when I spent some time in the South of France, something that I experienced almost twenty-five years ago. At the time I couldn’t laugh at it, mostly because I didn’t understand the experience, but remembering it brought a smile to my face today.
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My friends D. and H. and I had traveled to the South of France to visit the parents of H.
Up until this time, I had been kicking around Paris on my own for about a month and a half, so traveling with others in France was a new skill set I had yet to develop. Actually, a set of French social skills was something that I desperately needed. I think I may have been their first American close up, and they just assumed I knew how to behave myself. I was clueless then about the differences in expectations between Americans and the French, something which I can admit now.
H.’s mom took a dislike to me almost immediately. She did try to like me, for about five minutes, and I do have to give her credit for that. But my many faux pas were too immediate and disruptive to her quiet life in the little village near Clermont-l’Hérault. The biggest mistake being that I used all the hot water for my showers as no one told me until three days in that the hot water came from a tank on the roof, that was heated by the sun – and I was repeatedly late for meals. My vegetarianism didn’t sit well with anyone either. After a few days, I ended up being banished to camping in the field down the road from the house – in which D. begrudgingly left the comfort of the guest room and set up a tent for himself too, so I would not be out there in the field alone.
That said, D. and H. and I did spend our afternoons visiting little spots and towns in the district. We went to Montpellier, Agde, and Pezanas, and visited Saint-Guilhem-le-Désert where I had my first dessert crepes in a restaurant that was in a cave carved out of the mountain. There was at least one summer celebration in a tiny village close by that we went to one evening. We spent an afternoon on the shore of Lake Salagou, where I remember the landscape being very red, almost Martian. I don’t know if that’s really the case or just how I remember it. And I remember going to a rocky beach at the sea.
One afternoon H. asked me if Id like to come along to the supermarche, as his mom was going food shopping. Of course I wanted to go! I was starving for a salad as our compromised meals had been mostly fish, as a courtesy to my vegetarianism. Yes, fish is vegetarian. 8) I had my own cash to go food shopping, just hadn’t had a way to get there until now. When we got to the grocery I made a beeline for the veggies. I bagged up some lettuce, some carrots and a few other fresh items, and because corn was a relatively new vegetable in France (all things considered) it only came in cans then, so I picked up one of those as well.
Of course my shopping action brought on a bit of confusion as everything I did was confusing to them and their reactions to my actions was confusing to me! I didn’t find out until later that H.’s mom thought I had expected her to buy all of my food. As I was putting things into the shopping cart, she was taking them out and putting them back. No salad for me. I was meant to eat what everyone else ate.
We got back to the house and I went down to the field for a siesta. Dinner was something we were still gathering for in the evening. When I arrived at the table, Mom ceremoniously opened a can of corn and dumped it in a bowl.
Salade, she said.
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I can laugh at this story now, although, at the time, I was horrified!