When was the last time you got a French geography lesson with your lunch?
For me, it was last month, at Epicerie Saint-Sabin, a new grocery store/wine cave/café near the Bastille, when owner Laurent Pataille ran down the sandwich choices scratched on the chalkboard near his impeccable deli counter.
I learned that le Noir de Bigorre ham comes from the northern slopes of the Pyrenees; Laguiolle cheese, pronounced “la-yol” and similar to Cantal, is made in the Aveyron; and that tourte de meule is a delicious whole grain sourdough bread made throughout France.
I ordered a sandwich made from all three ingredients, and the lesson didn’t end there. M Pataille also recommended a wine I had never heard of: Fitou, (Champs de Soeurs 2011)—a luscious red apellation from Languedoc-Roussillon.
Wines from Cahors, Marcillac, Fronton, Gascogne, Roussillon; fresh and packaged edibles from Aveyron, Lot, Gars, Hautes-Pyrénées and Toulouse; tins of smoked mackeral, syrup made from poppies, candy made from violets, hazelnut cake from Rouergue, a commune in the Aveyron—the shop is dedicated to terroir.
My sandwich and glass of wine (at 3:00 in the afternoon, when it’s not always easy to find a bite to eat) were the high point of the day, and at 9.50€ a bargain. Especially when you include the duck sausage that tided me over while my sandwich was being prepared. And not to mention the high price of schooling.