L’ Esprit D’Escalier: Part Twenty-One. Morlaix.

by | Dec 20, 2023 | Uncategorized | 2 comments

The starters were served and Lucien’s gastronomic anticipation was realised.

Following a short drive, the pair arrived at the Manor House, nestling in a small commune on the outskirts of Morlaix. The seventeenth century property had been lovingly restored by the couple. The walls were of white stucco, topped with a roof of terracotta tiles in the local style and two rows of fives sash windows graced the front elevation. If one was to ask a child to draw their perfect house, the image of this place would appear on the paper.

To the rear of the main building the garden stretched over a hundred metres, by the width of the house. Bisected lengthways by a tall beech hedge, one side boasted a swimming pool, large patio and manicured lawns. The other side was pure utilitarian, adorned by fruit trees and canes, as well as a herb garden and substantial vegetable patch.

As he was greeted by a warm hug from Christine, Lucien’s brain began to relax in a way he’d never experienced before. Minor niggles left him like the extraction of thorns from his skin. The drumming of stress that had been ever present in his head, suddenly fell silent. The doctor felt weightlessness, as if he’d died and ascended to heaven. If this was what it was like in reality, he pondered, perhaps he would swallow a handful of toxic fungi now. No, this feeling was terrestrial, a heaven on earth.

“You must join us for dinner when you’re settled, Lucien,” his hostess said, releasing the doctor from her affectionate grip. She smelled of yeast and spices, like a warm, welcoming kitchen.

“I would like that very much,” Lucien replied, hardly able to suppress his new found enthusiasm for life – or was it death? Had he, like his hero Camus, perished on the road to this place? Andre showed him to the gite, a few hundred metres away, in the old stable block. Lucien noticed that it was fairly secluded, which suited his plan. The host let his guest into the modest property, designed for British or German tourists to use as a base for touring the region, in the summer months.

As Lucien strolled down the driveway to keep his dinner appointment, a further feeling of calm enveloped him. With the receding tension of almost four decades of pressure, his animosity towards the vicious trio began to fade. In addition, his dream of ending his days in the middle of the Indian Ocean was gradually being replaced by his current surroundings. Even when travelling to source furniture for his apartment, he’d never come upon such an idyllic spot.

Lucien tapped on the kitchen door, which opened to reveal another celestial scene. The giant farmhouse kitchen was straight from the pages of an up-market lifestyle magazine. The aromas stroking his nostrils were mouth-watering. Sitting at the table was Andre, flanked by three exotic faces; two of them identical, like exquisite bookends carved from ebony. Christine was standing at the stove, back to the table, enveloped in a cloud of aromatic steam. 

“Lucien! Welcome to our humble home. Let me introduce our daughters,” Andre addressed, standing to greet him. The three girls stood in unison and bowed their heads in acknowledgement. Lucien noticed that the single, older girl, to Andre’s right, was heavily pregnant. The Breton followed Lucien’s stare, and stretched his right arm out in her direction.

“”This is Patrice and our little grandson, Boubou.” He lightly touched her swollen belly which seemed to defy gravity. The young woman smiled and placed her hand on his, “and these two treasures are Mai and Meta,” he continued, waving his other arm at the two charming doppelgangers on his left. Their coordinated smiles melted the doctor’s heart.

The starters were served and Lucien’s gastronomic anticipation was realised. Each plate contained a freshly cooked galette. Folded within its crusty embrace, lay a thick rasher of ham, topped with  slices of Emmental cheese, herbs and a perfect fried egg. Lucien was forced to admit that, never in his life, had he tasted such homely, satisfying food, prepared with so much love. He shuddered to think what that single plate would cost on the Left Bank. Not much change out of twenty Euros and nowhere near the same quality, he thought.

If the entree had left Lucien smacking his lips, the main put it in the shade. A succulent pork chop bathed in cider gravy with apple and baby onions. This was accompanied by a selection of seasonal vegetables, picked a few metres away from where he was sitting. This delight came with sauteed potatoes in parsley, shallots and garlic. By the time the toffee-golden tarte tatin was ceremoniously whisked from the giant range, Lucien was ruing the inadequate size of his stomach. Gingerly, he nibbled at the caramelised delicacy, covered in Chantilly cream. Every bite was a paradox of pleasure and pain as his waistband protested. Even so, it was the perfect end to a perfect meal – or so he thought, until the cheeseboard arrived. More Heaven.

The conversation was as rich and satisfying as the food. Lucien listened intently to the adventures of his host in the troubled areas of Sub-Saharan Africa. The three young diners, adopted by the couple, were a drop in the ocean of his brave feats. Andre and his team had saved over one hundred orphaned children from certain death, or worse.

The whole day, the train journey, Andre’s welcome, the house, the company and the meal had alleviated the agony Lucien experienced, like a magical analgesic. Sitting with this unusual but beautiful family. Lucien began to reconsider his actions. He could leave that world behind and settle here in the peaceful surroundings of Finisterre.

That was, until his phone rang. Making his apologies, he checked the screen – MIMI.


  1. Kenneth Childs

    Wonderfully imaginative and descriptive. Your knowledge and love of France is very apparent.

    • brian

      Thanks Ken. My second home. I’ve had that very meal and felt just like Lucien. Happy and free.


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