In the Stomach of France

As a southern girl raised on pinto beans and corn bread, my palate is not sophisticated. While I certainly like to eat, I am not a food junkie. As for cooking, well, it’s a good thing that I’m married to a man who enjoys it as hanging out in the kitchen doesn’t top my list of fun things to do.

Yet, here I am in Lyon, the stomach of France, a country world-renowned for its delectable cuisine — both haute and nouvelle. I do enjoy the wholesome freshness of French food. The bread, any and all of it, is to die for. The salads are greener and the meats are certainly redder as the French seem to like things raw. I’ve learned that “medium” here is comparable to “rare” back home. Order accordingly.

With more than a thousand eateries, the city of Lyon has one of the highest concentrations of restaurants per capita in France. The town is famous for bouchons lyonnaise, informal restaurants serving the dishes for which Lyon became famous — sausages, duck pâtés, roast pork.

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One of many bouchons in Vieux Lyon.

The tradition of bouchons came from small inns visited by silk workers passing through Lyon in the 17th and 18th centuries. Lyon was the silk capital of France at that time. In fact, some of the buildings in Croix-Rousse and Vieux Lyon have traboules, covered crossways, between buildings which were constructed to protect the silk from bad weather when it was being carried between buildings.

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Traboules in Vieux Lyon.

But back to bouchons…

The French take food seriously and there’s an association which certifies restaurants as legitimate bouchon lyonnaise. I did some research and found a couple I wanted to try. We made reservations for lunch today at Le Café de Jura which first opened in 1867.

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Outside Le Café de Jura.

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Inside Le Café de Jura.

Brigitte and Henri Josserand took over the restaurant in 1974, and Brigitte, then only 19 years old, learned her cooking skills from her mother-in-law. Their son, Benôit, greeted us this afternoon and offered to explain the menu options in English.

John selected the sausage with boiled potatoes and I chose veal liver with onions in a dijonaise sauce with roasted potatoes.

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My conclusion after my first bouchon lyonnaise meal? You gotta like strong, pungent meat, a lot, to enjoy a bouchon lyonnaise meal. Frankly, the cuts of meat used are not my favorites.

But, the chocolate mousse I had for dessert was fantastic!

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Delicious chocolate mousse.

After lunch, and still in a food frame of mind, we tracked down Les Halles de Lyon.

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This is, essentially, a vast food court where you can buy certain foods to cook on your own or dine in and let someone else do the cooking for you. Unsurprisingly, I prefer the later!

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One of many restaurants in Les Halles de Lyon.

Speaking of allowing someone else to do the cooking, I patiently wait to see what Chef John has in store for supper. I’m hoping for white meat.

Bon appetit!

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