I've no idea what they'll all make of her, or me for that matter, but I'm looking forward to it greatly. As ever, Fanny is on hand to chaperone me throughout my stay. Back in 1959 she published a guidebook to help other ordinary people to Wine and Dine in France. Well, it might be rude not to do just that. The book is crammed full of her personal suggestions on how to find the very best meals that France, the country supreme in fine eating and drinking, can provide. It couldn't possibly be comprehensive, Fanny does not pretend to list ALL France's eating places, but she gives it a good go with 450 of her 'very favourites'. She insists that we do not pay any attention whatsoever to
Each recommendation is chosen to give me a 'high and assured level of delight at the table'. This may cause some raised French eyebrows as a solo diner. When Harry Met Fanny this is not. The book is not designed for mere commoners looking for adequate food at a low price. It is for those willing to pay a higher price for fine cuisine. This may be an expensive trip. The conference is in Tours, a place I have never been to before. I wonder if Fanny's recommendations will still hold true? Before I explore though, she continues to warn against complaining and fussing about the lavatories. I haven't been, but perhaps I will. I'm nervous now. I simply should 'use the pedals' without complaint, as some of France's most primitive establishments provide some of France's most memorable meals. Eeek.
Her first port of call en Tours is the Brasserie Bordeaux, which is apparently brightly decorated and run by a Madame and her daughter, who do above average treatments with vegetables. My eyes are watering already. Perhaps I'd be safer at Hotel Métropole, which has a rather plain restaurant but an exceptional Gâteau Maison. Or maybe La Rôtisserie Tourangelle is more me. It's knitted into the ancient streets as naturally as Madame Defarge knitted names into the steps of La Guillotine. It has frilly curtains and lavish portions, setting a pattern of provincial chic. Fanny knows me so well.
But what should I eat while I am there? Fanny has this covered too, as you might expect, with her 1973 Common Market Cookery book on the acknowledged centre of the Gastronomic World, France. Eating in France seems to be all swings and roundabouts. French folks spend one eighth of their incomes upon their bellies, Fanny proudly declares. Is it just me, or does that seem low? I should watch out for the service of vegetables. They will be served AFTER the main meal apparently, which may be tricky for me as a vegetarian. On the plus side the French seemingly have 480 different ways to cook a potato, which can't be bad. Can it? Only one way to find out. I will report back in equal measure on Tours itself, my tours of the lavatories, the Madames and as many of the potato variations as I can muster... Will you join me?