Day 2 – Croq’Malin, originally uploaded by ronet.

We lived two years in France when we were both vegetarian – getting anything to eat was a challenge at the best of times. At motorway services it was almost impossible.

And even if you eat meat, if you indulge in a huge lunchtime meal when you’re on the road, it just means you’ll have to hang around the hotel getting bored instead of eating out in the evening.

You can sometimes get a cheese sandwich which is edible, just about, but the bread has the consistency of decaying foam (think old sofas with the stuffing hanging out and you’ll get the idea.)

But if stop at a petrol station with Croq’Malin sign, you’ll find fresh baguettes, creamy Camembert, ham and salami. Even tubs of carrottes rapées and celeriac remoulade if you’re that way inclined.

So this time, getting the food was a snap. Finding a picnic table where we could assemble our meal was a little tricky. (Note to self, try to bag a table by 12:30 or be prepared to wait until after 2pm).

But after a couple of tries we found the perfect spot and then all we had to do was construct our picnic, set up the camera and croq away to our hearts’ content.



  1. I am French. I have been vegetarian for years and lived well on all manner of fruits and vegetables in season. I guess if you can’t cook well, it would seem a boring option to stick with what nature provides. In fact there is more of a variety of those than I can find here in the US, and certainly safer. Open markets abound in every town. No, it was not easy to find your popular meat substitutes in France and though somne have been brought to the shelves, they is till less available there today than what you can find here. But the amount of fillers and strange things including MSG you can find in the substitutes that taste like meat, and the cost you pay for what you can only hope is pure, It is not worth chasing after. Today in France, the Hindu, vegan and Moslem influence has casued a number of good restaurants to abound n Paris. Don’t forget teh Jewish community if you know where to find it in Paris. In most restaurants, if you speak enough French to be able to ask, you could always get the chef to prepare you a hearty salad of fresh or cooked vegetables. The villages and other departments are still poor in that regard and if cheap stop-by-the road food outlets are the only thing your budget and time allows, then you may not find a hearty salad. Tubs of celeri remoulade and carottes rapees as you say are available.

    About the bread. Hearth-baked French bread is the best and healthiest, along-side German, but not to the American tastebud, accustomed to soft texture achieved with processed and flour quick baking in modern ovens or bread machines. French bread won’t last more than a day. It does not contain the emulsifiers. You must buy it fresh from the boulangerie each day or for each meal. The more holes in the bread (you described as sponge) the better the quality. Open cell structure. Unlike the solid (though soft) texture popular here in the US. I can imagine one must acquire the tatse for it, after being spoilt by the sweetness and softness of bread here, but once aquired, you want nothing less (like my American husband who has craved it since his first visit) A road-side Croq Malin is not a bakery. Their baguettes are frozen and recognized by all to be of not good quality. Just a stop-gap. Like your soft sandwiches offered in gas stations and seven elevens along the route, encased to last forever in a plastic “coffin,” for the starving traveller to seize in their hunger.

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