How do you tell a true friend? She lets you buy her a hunk of pain d’épice in her hour of need and smiles to show it does help, if only a bit. And then when you meet again, she surprises you with a return hunk (in a signed ziplock bag), bought at her favorite market.
This in turn allows you to take a little slice with you on that 6:52am train to cold and rainy Luxembourg where you have to spend the day on business. This slice is a teeny handheld comfort zone to nibble on as you awake, disoriented, from one of those early morning, neck-straining half-naps on a train seat.
You might as well enjoy that slice while it lasts: it is the only thing you’ll eat for the better part of that day, as lunchtime will give you the opportunity to take a blood-chilling taste of The Worst Choucroute Ever at the cafeteria of an industrial zone just outside of Luxembourg. Names will remain confidential to protect the innocents. And me.
Oh boy. I haven’t had such despicable food in… well, ever. Potatoes that manage to be both overcooked outside and raw inside, sauerkraut that’s actually swimming in oil (yes, in oil), and pork meat that’s dry and brittle, but at the same time ingeniously larded with big pieces of translucent fat. All of this slapped with a vengeance on — I kid you not — a metal tray with compartments. Meat in the lower one, potatoes in the upper left, sauerkraut in the upper right. True, discipline is all we ask of food.
And don’t try to ask for one of those little bowls of salad that you spot like an oasis on a counter in the back, the lady who serves (oh sure, her life is probably not all pink and flowers but in what way am I responsible I ask) will yumble at you (it’s when you yell something that’s a jumble of syllables and the opponent can’t answer back because s/he has no idea what you said and there are people waiting in line). Probably the little salads are strictly reserved for the upper management.
Thankfully, after the afternoon meeting ends, there is a little time before your train to Paris leaves, and it doesn’t take much persuading to enroll your colleague on a walk in the pouring rain to the Christmas market, for a glass of Glühwein and a soft pretzel. Which make everything instantly better.