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Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Frugal in France: Roadfood and the Tour de France

One of the things that gets me labelled CHEAP in the USA is my habit of brown bagging. At work, Mr FS and I have been enjoying our peanut butter sandwiches for more than 20 years. Brown bagging on the road has elicited even more raised eyebrows. I used to explain that it was FRUGAL not CHEAP to eat something packed at home or picked up at a grocery instead of fast food en route. I have given up and accept the criticism.

Not here though! At every parking lot for a major attraction or view--St Malo, a beautiful port city, Mont St Michel, that famous monastery in the sky--one has a vista not only of the sight one has come for, but of zillions of families opening their trunks and producing bountiful meals. We are not cheap here! We are mainstream!

My favorite moment came a few days ago. We were staying with friends of our hosts and talk turned to the Tour de France, whose route was nearby. They helped us figure out where/when to go. We parked ourselves by the side of the road in a tiny town. The crowds were only one or two deep. After an hour ("part of the experience" says Mr. FS), the riders whizzed by. It was thrilling, even though it lasted only a few seconds.

Not quite as thrilling, but still satisfying. As we left town, we passed a small park area with tables. There we spotted many of our fellow spectators, mostly French families with children, eating their pique-niques.

Do you pack your road food? Plain or fancy?


Shelley said...

Husband number 2 came from a family of 6 children and his mother always made sandwiches for the road (with butter on - in addition to mayo- a northern habit). I never used to like to do this. If I couldn't eat out I'd rather stay home; a trip to McD's or whatever was part of the day out as far as I was concerned. Here in Europe,though, food in some places is unreliable: exhorbitant, nasty, unavailable. When we go walking there may be no tea shoppe or pub for miles, so I pack food to go. Now, even when we go to the running club and the pub after, our pub serves no food but crisps and nuts, so I pack dinner to go (usuallay a pasta salad or something in a tortilla or pitta bread). On the continent, we always picnic on bread, cheeses, sausage and sometimes wine. Even when we were in the States, with restaurants at every turn, we shopped for a 'room picnic' to save both money and calories. So, I guess I've finally come around. I don't know that I'd want PNB sandwiches everyday for lunch, but packing your lunch for work is just common sense. For me it began with being picky about what I wanted to eat rather than being frugal, strangely enough. If you want complete control over that, you have to bring your own. Please that you got to see part of the Tour. That would likely be one of Bill's bucket list!

Frugal Scholar said...

@Shelley-Now I have more reasons besiies being cheap. It's really easy to see the Tour b/c the route is so long. Just wander over and wait.

Marcela said...

We also use the brown bags, and my family of origin always did. We used to take long road trips to the province where my father was born( 12 hs by car), twice a year, and my mum would pack milanesa sandwiches (schnitzel sandwiches, very common in Argentina), cookies, mate and juice for us to eat on the road. I love it.
If we didn't do that perhaps we wouldn't be able to travel that often and we love travelling!

une femme said...

I'm trying to get back into the brown bag habit. My challenge is that I get hungry around 10am and end up eating my lunch then! So I have to pack a morning snack too.

Shelley, my grandmother (originally from the South) used to put butter on sandwiches too, "to make them more filling," she'd say.

frogs said...

This is normal in the UK, though it doesn't generally involve brown bags as much as sandwich boxes. You can get insulated ones with little ice-packs if it's a hot day. My kids make their own lunches for school. And if we're going on a day out I definitely take a lunch of sandwiches, crisps if I'm feeling generous, fruit and some kind of home-made oat bars. It's a no-brainer, the mark-up on food at service stations or visitor attractions is insane.

Jenny Woolf said...

I love to see French families in the summer, all sitting outside on long tables complete with tablecloths, having unpacked vast picnics to eat just outside their front doors! But if you're considering French frugal, go to the caves at Minerve and see the locals coming along with their carrier bags to gather the snails. Yum! :)

Duchesse said...

One of my son's friends got a one-year assignment at a computer lab in Paris. he arrived with his lunch in a brown bag and was eased mercilessly" "What? Are you going on a hike?"

In my city I often take a sandwich when running errands alone; I don't want to spend time being served in a good place nor do I want to eat fast food junk. Nutrition is yet another reason for brown-bagging, pb & banana is my staple.

Wow, seeing the Tour flash by is a thrill, non?

Frugal Scholar said...

@Marcela-Those sandwiches sound great. Your lat point is the best one!

@Deja-i have the same issue. We bring 1 1/2 sandwiches--I eat 1/2 at 10. Must be low blood sugar or something.

@Frogs--Thank you! i will keep your comment to show all the people who make fun of us.

Frugal Scholar said...

@Jenny--We participated in a picnic like that. The ones after the Tour were much more prosaic.
@Duchesse-My son will be in France next year--perhaps it is a Paris thing? As for the Tour--very exciting.