With recent temperatures down to -7ªC at night and about the same in positive during the day, thoughts turn to keeping warm, and eating big meals is one very pleasant way to do it.
The tradition of big breakfasts here in Catalunya really started with hunters who, after a cold night stalking (or being stalked) by wild boar, needed something substantial to get them feeling warm and sociable again. So various restaurants in the countryside specialize in foods which one would not normally associate with the western concept of breakfast.
How about starting around 9am with a glass of red wine and some olives and pickled cauliflower, and then moving into the room where an open fire with hot coals on a grill for preparing your own toasted bread is the next step. Once you have the toast made, then of course it’s time to apply garlic, squeezed tomato and olive oil to it as this is the base for the meal. After this you go to the buffet counter to choose the meat you want. The choice varies from sausages, chicken, lamb chops and pig trotters to salted fish and, of course, steak. Everyone prepares their own meat so that they can choose exactly how rare or well done they like it. Once cooked to perfection, the meat is piled on the plate with the toast and a dab of “all-i-oli” (garlic mayonnaise). With a full glass of wine, it is time to begin the feast which is breakfast!
This meal is not everyones idea of a good start to the day, especially since afterwards the last thing you feel like doing is working, but it is a delicious way to spend a few hours out of the cold winter chill and certainly eliminates the need to think about another meal for a good few hours.
Sometimes we have to accept that the French do it better, not bigger or louder, just with more style. Such is the case of the saturday morning market in the streets of Ceret, which is just across the border some 45 mins from Girona.
The stalls are more varied, the products look nicer, even when most of the fruit on sale is Spanish. You can find lots of interesting things for presents like candles and soap, then there is the selection of organic bread, fruit and vegetables as well as wines, honey, cheese, which is also never seen, or at least not promoted as such in Spain.
Add in the fact that Ceret is a charming village with some interesting old squares, narrow lanes and plenty of terraces to sit outside and eat and drink and the whole experience feels somehow more satisfying.
Winter is not the best time to visit as there are fewer stalls, and thus selection, but it is also less crowded and if you plan well, after indulging in lunch in one of the many tempting restaurants, the local rugby team may be playing which is a real treat.
Vive la France, and having it so close by!