Whatever you’ve heard about lighter European meals is not true in the Alps. At all. Le pire is that the pounds sneak up like the Freshman, or rather in the gastronomical capital of the world, the French fifteen… ok, I’m fibbing. But really, the only way they maintain their paint-tight-skinny-jeans-sveltness is by skipping their breakfast and walking everywhere. One can tralala to the patisserie, bounce over to the fromagerie, then finish up at the boulangerie (not to be confused with the boucherie where the only pain you’ll find is stomaching the sight of freshly hung/dead rabbit and the like.) After an eternity of hunting and gathering, the national sport, they walk a few blocks home sans breaking a sweat.
Prepped to play along? Are the eyes closed enough to imagine and read?
(Setting: Six hours from home base, you’re living with your host family and their friends with their 4 kids in a 250 year old chalet nestled on the top of a mountain.)
Before “à table” was called, you sip an apéro along with a snackie dish. As the token foreigner, you wait to be told where to sit and know it will be at the kids end. Next you dig into a warm dish of either un planchet randonneur, an assortment of melted cheeses and ham, or une tartiflette, this sausage-potato-cheese casserole gone haywire. Or if it was Saturday, les raclettes. You take your little pan, load with cheese, place on a hot plate then dump over potatoes with lots of Savoie sausage. Repeat.
(Setting: You’re a speck on a mountain dotted with ski lifts overlooking the curves of a valley where you’ve discovered a little trail for sprinting.)
In endorphin euphoria, you laugh out loud having just realized the extreme blessing of your location. The fact that there is nothing to do but romp around under a brilliant sun makes you forget the cheese sticking interminably in your stomach. With the mountainous air burning your lungs, you fly over the hills. You almost get your heels nipped off by the dog of random hikers.
(Setting: Your heels live to see the next day.)
Descending towards a restaurant, you start down a diamond ski course up until a cow path. Alpines rise on your right and roads carve the hills to your left as you and the kids and a mom crunch, crunch, crunch over leaves. The swapping of childhood songs and prancing and laughter are all heightened by the unusually warm weather. You perform a show choir number in an attempt to avoid the crottes of cow, goat, and rabbit variety in the mountains.
Over a couple brooks, past gigantic roots, the lingering stench proves your jig was unsuccessful. To be amid two families, neither of which is your own, stinks as well. You thought that a rural trip would take care of the odorous aspects of France… But glance by glance at the surrounding magnificence, your nose is drawn up. You take in proof of a Creator who refreshes completely. And you know that no matter in which corner of the globe you find yourself, he will navigate you through the crottes of this life.