John writes – Today we leave Normandy for the Loire Valley. The drive is pleasant: secondary roads at the beginning, autoroutes for the majority of the trip. We see the orchards and dairy farms of Normandy (think Wisconsin) give way to the wheat and corn fields, sunflower fields and hay fields of the Loire (think Iowa and Kansas), and of course, vineyards.
We speculate on why other countries have wanted to possess France: the Vikings, the English and the Germans. Well, this country can feed itself and a whole lot more. It also has sea access to the north, west and south, and has plenty of navigable rivers, including the Rhine on the east. What’s not like? And once the Italians taught them how to cook, the proposition became irresistible.
But the French never successfully colonized the New World. Maybe they, like the Spanish, were content merely to extract wealth from the New World, whereas English refugees had no choice but to emigrate as entire families knowing full well that they would not be returning to their mother country.
Almost at our destination, we stop for lunch in the town of Amboise, notable for being Leonardo da Vinci’s last residence, in the employ of the king of France. We choose a restaurant along the banks of the Loire. Mary has a filet of sandre aka pike-perch aka walleye for all you Minnesotans out there. I have andouillette, which has be the ultimate fifth quarter food. It consists of pork chitterlings flavored with onion and salt, and stuffed into a casing, smoked and grilled. Chef Chris Cosentino would be proud: innards in innards. And damned tasty, too.