Friday, August 21, 2009
Back in the 1980's I had a business importing dairy products from Normandy. I bought a 7.5 tonne refrigerated truck and most Friday nights I would drive from London to Poole and take a night sailing on Truckline Ferries across the Channel to Cherbourg. Next morning, drive to the dairy, load up with cheese and come back on the Saturday evening sailing.
The boss of one of my suppliers was quite a bon viveur and he would often invite me to lunch - if I came over with the whole family he would insist on it. We would go to a really nice restaurant in nearby Valognes called L'Agriculture. The food was so nice, the ambiance so typically French and the welcome so warm that it became our restaurant with which to compare all other restaurants. Quite often the opinion would be, "Good - but not as good as the Agriculture!"
L'Agriculture is still there - and it hasn't changed a bit. Even one of the serveuse is still employed to wait at table - though she is no longer a fresh faced 17 year old! The decor is the same and the food is still really good French country fare. They used to have a fish tank in the hall where the lobsters lived and you would choose your lunch before sitting down. Nowadays it only houses tropical fish - not for eating ( . . . . . at least, I don't think so).
As well as dairy products, Normandy is also famous for its apple brandy, called Calvados. Occasionally I would buy a bottle to take home. In those days there was a limit to the amount of duty free wine and/or spirits (but not beer or cider) you could import without paying onerous customs duties. I bought my Calva from a little family run business that made their own produce on their farm from their own apples. Sometimes they would give me my Calva in a used beer bottle. I supposed they were trying to save money on the packaging. . . . . . . .