Monday, May 29, 2017

Lost in French Menu Translation in Verdun: Who Wants Pig’s Feet?

The Dutchman and I have a love and hate relationship with France. We liked going to the French Alps for our winter sports holiday and to a few places in the country as well. I know for a fact for myself that there are a number of regions, cities and towns that I would love to explore in the south of France. But I am not rushing, I will get to see and experience them one at a time =)

Last week, we went on a 4-day little trip to Verdun in the Lorraine region to visit the World War I battlefields, the war memorial monuments and the cemeteries.

Lost in French menu translation case: I ordered pork but not pig's feet?

But there are certain things that we do not look forward to when visiting France. In general, French people are not very helpful at all and they will insist on speaking French even if they know damn right that you are a tourist and you do not speak the local language. They will ignore your pleas and people will just continue speaking French even if you said NO FRENCH. I mean, why? Non-parlez-vous Francais! They all fall on deaf ears.

There are of course exemptions to this notorious stereotype rule but we have been coming and going to France, for years already (the Dutchman since childhood days), that this has become a very predictable issue that we have to live with during our visits. Every single time. So our experiences and struggles are definitely not a one-off or a few times cases only.

Do we need to learn French to correct this? Hell, no. But I can learn a few words and phrases which I always do in every country I visit anyway. Just the same for French people visiting the Netherlands, I would not expect them to speak Dutch. Does that make sense at all?

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We had a long day chasing one battlefield and war monument and cemetery to another under the almost 30C heat of the sun, so we were very tired at the end of the day and did not want to go to the city centre anymore for dinner.

So we picked the Restaurant Le Bonsejour which was not too far away from our hotel. We can just walk. Perfect!

Restaurant Le Bonsejour in Verdun, France

The restaurant is located outside the city centre on Route de Metz near the supermarkets.

Restaurant Le Bonsejour in Verdun, France

The restaurant was quite busy when we arrived so that gave us a very good impression. The interior design was also very cosy and typically French country style. At the front door, we saw a nicely decorated traditional wooden hay cart and in it was this huge bowl of raw peanuts. I later realised that peanuts are the special house trademark of the restaurant as they serve diners a handful before each meal, usually meant to go with an aperitif, which we didn’t order by the way.

I am not very fond of aperitifs, unless I drink this somewhere in a bar, but not when I am seated in a restaurant ready to eat dinner. We were given anyway the peanuts which we gladly ate, as well as some bread, garlic and chives butter and 2 other dips.

Restaurant Le Bonsejour in Verdun, France

The restaurant traditionally serves some peanuts before the meal.

Restaurant Le Bonsejour in Verdun, France

Like most French restaurants, the service crew here at Le Bonsejour do not speak a word of English at all. This is not just a common phenomenon in the hospitality world in the whole of France really, but many, and I dare say this, the majority of French people does not and will not want to speak English to foreign visitors. Sadly, it’s like a mysterious chicken and egg scenario. A vicious cycle that has no end. There is no cure in sight unless of course, you learn to speak French, but hello, I am a fricking tourist in this country?

Anyway, the lady service crew gave us the menu and rattled quickly on non-stop in French even if she knew that it was just a waste of time and effort because we do not understand her at all. Although I have an inkling that she was talking about the day’s special because she pointed to the menu du jour board hanging on the side corner of the wall. The Dutchman has studied French in school before but that’s a looooong time ago. He only remembers a few words and phrases and is clearly useless for me in helping me translate the menu. So I turned to the phone and relied on Google Translate.

I decided to try something interesting, something my gut feel says traditional and a real French dish: ‘Pied de Porc Roti au Four a Bois’

Google Translate said something like – ‘Roasted pork roast with wood’ and another translation said something along the line of, ‘Pork in the oven with wood’. The lady service crew who does not speak English at all even made an extra effort by making oink-oink noises to make sure I knew what I am ordering. Now I have to admit, that was a bit funny. Yes, I am ordering a pig, haha! OINK.

The Dutchman, on the other hand, wanted something safe and mundane and ordered a Mexicane Pizza. Hmm, a Mexican pizza in Verdun, France. That is something new for sure.

When our meals arrived, I was in for a huge surprise. What the heck am I getting? 3 WHOLE PIG’S FEET!? They are whole feet!

Dinner Restaurant Le Bonsejour in Verdun, France

Not your usual kind of dinner, eh? This was not crispy at all but very tender.

The Dutchman chuckled excitedly his eyes dilating looking at the pig’s feet, “There you go, have fun!” Although I could sense an underline of sarcasm in the tone of his voice, maybe due to my penchant for trying new kinds of (local and traditional) food while he prefers to stay safe by ordering, erm, the boring pizza.

I don’t know if I want to turn vegan at the very sight of 3 pig’s feet on a large wooden board in front of me. I eat meat, although not a lot, but this is the first time I am sitting in a somewhat decent restaurant and being confronted, er rather, served with literally whole pig’s feet on the dinner table. Talk about losing your appetite in an instant.

Alas, pig’s feet are not only found in Asia. Maybe I have looked up to French cuisine that much? Oh well, we all make wrong assumptions at some point in our lives. No big deal though but quite funny. A bit of a faux pas on my end really. A case of #lostinfrenchtranslation

As for the taste? It has this distinct flavour that I cannot put my finger on. The meat was incredibly tender, it felt like butter between my tongue and melted in my mouth. They must have cooked the feet for hours in the oven. However, it was too fatty, slimy and greasy for me. I just could not finish it, but I tried eating at least half of it. We paid for the meal and I didn’t want to complain in the middle of the night at the hotel that I am still hungry. I gobbled up all the veggies and the garden salad though.

Mexicane Pizza Restaurant Le Bonsejour in Verdun, France

Dutchman's pizza dinner with a thicker dough.

Pied de Porc Roti au Four a Bois Restaurant Le Bonsejour in Verdun, France

The sight of this almost turned me into a vegan, lol.

Dutchman finished his pizza which turned out to be more like a Spanish pizza than a Mexicane because of the chorizo bits and black olives. He liked it but he thought it was too heavy since they made the pizza with a thicker dough.

As we did not have any room for desserts in our stomachs anymore, we finished the dinner with coffee. The regular espresso cafe for me and cappuccino for the Dutchman that came with whipped cream instead of the usual steaming foam on top.

Would I eat here again? Well maybe as we are looking to go back here in Verdun in the near future. But maybe I will perhaps order the ‘Coquelet a Roti au Four a Bois’ (roasted chicken). I saw a lady ordered this from the table beside us. It looked delicious.

Restaurant Le Bonsejour in Verdun, France
Coffee Restaurant Le Bonsejour in Verdun, France

Travel Period: May 2017
Destination: Verdun, Lorraine (Grand Est), France

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Happy Travels! Enjoy Life =)

All pictures were taken by a point and shoot pocket camera or a smartphone.

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