Welcome to the Chubby Chatterbox Newsletter, where I’ll be posting favorites from the Chubby Chatterbox archives. In addition, my complete thriller Return of the Mary Celeste will soon be serialized here for those who have asked for something beyond a regular post.

My novel is based on a true event, arguably the greatest maritime mystery of all time. In 1872 the crew and passengers of Boston brigantine Mary Celeste abandoned their seaworthy ship and its valuable cargo, vanishing in the middle of the Atlantic. Speculation over their fate has never abated. History records that after the Mary Celeste tragedy no one from that fateful voyage was ever seen again. History is about to be rewritten…

Return of the Mary Celeste

Prologue

Tragedy struck the brigantine Mary Celeste on the morning of November 25, 1872. The hourly log was later recovered from the deserted vessel; At 8 a.m. the last notation was made. By 9 a.m. no one remained aboard to chalk the next entry.

Something had terrified Captain Benjamin Briggs and his crew, prompting the seasoned skipper to make a decision certain to affect not only himself, his ship and crew, but his family as well—his wife and two year old daughter were aboard Mary Celeste. Much ink has been spilled in fanciful and scientific attempts to explain the calamity that engulfed this perfectly seaworthy ship, yet all that is known for certain is this: in a matter of minutes Captain Briggs became convinced that the only way to save their lives was by ordering everyone into a hastily launched lifeboat. By giving the order to abandon ship, he also launched the greatest of all maritime mysteries.

On December 5, 1872, a month after leaving New York Harbor, Mary Celeste was found drifting on a calm and empty sea. The ship was in fine condition, perfectly intact with valuable cargo safely stored in her hold, but the crew and passengers had vanished. None were ever seen again.

Until now….

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Dining in France

June 26, 2017
The Little Prince
The Little Prince

Disclaimer: Photographing food is a skill I’ve yet to master, unlike fellow bloggers Mitchell at Mitchell is Moving and Bruce Taylor at Oddball Observations. These guys regularly post images that make you want to lick your computer screen.

 

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It’s always surprised me that Mrs. Chatterbox and I have had such bad food on our trips. Perhaps it’s because we travel with a tour and accommodating large numbers of people is problematic, or it could be that as diabetics we tend to eat early, and Europeans are famous for eating late. This time we were going to the south of France, a region famous for its cuisine. In spite of my recent weight loss, I was determined to enjoy the best food France had to offer. I’ve already written about the cassoulet in Carcassonne but there were other memorable food moments.

 

Mrs. Chatterbox is more of a “foodie” than I am, often pouring through her vast cooking library to come up with wonderful dishes; her favorite dinner entrée came from Paris’ The Little Prince restaurant on the first night of our trip, a savory pork dish that melted in our mouths. Mrs. C. isn’t a big meat fan so her ranking this dish number #1 was surprising.

 

 

 

Dinner  at The Little Prince

 

 

 

 

Wine and champagne were plentiful everywhere we went.

 

 

 

One of the many desserts we enjoyed, in spite of there being no chocolate included.

 

 

 

 

Chateauneuf du Pape was one of the three vineyards we visited. Our future daughter-in-law loves wine so we brought her a bottle.

 

 

 

 

This appetizer was, for a few days, the best appetizer I’d ever been served. It was a tender zucchini blossom stuffed with a mushroom/wine mixture. I think among the ingredients was crack or something equally addictive.

 

 

 

 

Crispy duck shank

 

 

 

 

Several times we were served hake, a delicious fish with fried crispy skin. Mrs. C. wasn’t as enthused by this fish dish as I was so I often ate hers.

 

 

 

Salmon mousse appetizer. I wouldn't eat anything like this at home, but it was delicious. Two bottles of wine might have helped.

 

 

 

 

More of the region's famous duck.

 

Sarlat is said to be the second best city in France for cuisine, after Lyon, and we were told to prepare to eat well. Mrs. C. and I selected a restaurant in the Medieval city center and I was served a peculiar meal, peculiar because I was confronted with the best appetizer I’ve ever been served (even better than the stuffed zucchini blossom) followed by a steak I couldn’t chew through. When I sent the steak back, everyone in the restaurant turned and stared. I guess it wasn’t a common thing to do. The waiter was gracious and brought me a delicious hamburger.

 

 

 

Appetizer with foie gras, duck strips and other delicacies I probably don’t want to know about. This region is famous for foie gras although several folks on our tour, including a couple who were both veterinarians, refused to eat it. This was more than a meal all by itself.

 

 

 

The steak I couldn’t bite through. The sauce covering it was delicious.

 

I can no longer say I haven’t eaten well on vacation, although in France I felt that appetizers were the stars of the show, with mixed results for the main course.  In spite of all the rich food, I was surprised after returning home and stepping on a scale—I’d lost another seven pounds, probably from climbing all those hilltop towns. Unfortunately, after drinking some very good wine it will be hard to enjoy my cherished Two-Buck-Chuck from Trader Joe’s. This is what son CJ would dismiss as a “first world” problem!

 

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 Note: Happy Birthday, Dad. You've been gone nine years but I still think about you every day.

 

 

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Comments

21 Comments
I did not take pictures of my food in France. I was so busy swallowing each morsel followed by wine. Maybe next time. Those photos look very appetizing.
By: Tabor on June 26, 2017
I think you did quite well with the photography, making things I would never eat look delicious and tempting! Eating out can be challenging for me as a total 'plant-eater' (but one who hunts, fishes, has beehives, and raises beef cattle!)
By: Kelly on June 26, 2017
My wife and I can usually fill up on appetizers, so we would've been good to go. Zucchini blossoms. If you hadn't told me. I never would've guessed. Photos look tasty to me although I'm not ready to lick my screen just yet.
By: Alex J. Cavanaugh on June 26, 2017
That salmon mousse looks yummy. Not sure about the rest of it.
By: PT Dilloway on June 26, 2017
I'm probably more like Mrs. C & lean toward more vegetarian fare, and I don't like alcohol (I know - what a waste!), but I still think I would have enjoyed the food on this trip. Especially the fish - yum!
By: The Bug on June 26, 2017
The food looks great, although I'd probably look for an entree besides duck. And there is NOTHING at all wrong with your food photography! :)
By: scott park on June 26, 2017
Everything looked yummy--although I was able to refrain from licking the screen!!
By: fishducky on June 26, 2017
1. Your food photos were delicious 2. My mother always thought just ordering appetizers was the way to go and judging from those zucchini blossoms....I would have just made a meal out of those! 3. My mother has been gone since October of 1986 and I think of her every day- usually when I am cooking as I'll hear her advice about what I am doing. 4.You probably lost weight as you were in a country that does not allow GMO food nor high fructose corn syrup in their grocery stores nor restaurants. Matter of fact they don't import our food to their country. Smart--n'est ce pas?
By: Kathe W. on June 26, 2017
I would have sent the steak back too. I would love the fish and would try the duck. I am not sure about salmon mousse and would need to know what is in it. As for all the glasses on the table and the big smile on your face I am certain you loved all the walls you bumped into:) Foie Gras is so fancy and I know it as leberwurst:)
By: Birgit on June 26, 2017
For some reason I couldn't see the zucchini blossoms on my computer so I had to imagine. I do love duck however so I'd have fit right in. Lost weight on the trip? Kudos.
By: Arkansas Patti on June 26, 2017
Stephen- Your food photos are excellent. Great to learn you enjoyed the meals, though it would be a challenge not to when you are in France. My only caution however would be about beef. I love French Cuisine and revel in it whenever we are there, however I don't think the French relate well to beef. Fish, chicken, duck, rabbit and game birds they do as well as anyone, but beef is not their strong suit. I avoid it. Years ago on our first journey we were in Gemenos in the Bouches Du Rhone and late at night found a delightful country Inn in an old farm house, full of antiques. We went to the dining room and I ordered entrecôte that was supposed to be a prime steak. Perhaps it was. But it was tough and hard to chew. Years later on a business trip an associate ordered a steak with the same results. I've had wonderful steak with peppercorn sauce at French Restaurants in the US, but I'm not sure that is possible over there. Plus I figure we North Americans do a good job with steak, so while in France, opt otherwise. Thanks for the great post.
By: Tom Cochrun on June 26, 2017
So glad you enjoyed the food this time! It does look wonderful, especially the zucchini.
By: messymimi on June 26, 2017
You look verrrrry happy with all of those wine glasses in front of you. Love, Janie
By: Janie on June 26, 2017
The pictures are great! But you can have my fish, too.
By: Val on June 26, 2017
I'll have the duck please.
By: cranky on June 26, 2017
Wait. I need pictures of food to make me want to lick my computer screen? Well, THIS is a tad embarrassing.
By: Al Penwasser on June 26, 2017
Great looking food and I'll have to trust you that it tastes good. Quite often my wife and I split a meal. Serving portions are just too big.
By: redKline on June 26, 2017
Great pictures, and the descriptions have me salivating. Shame about the steak though. It should be tender enough to fall apart on the fork!
By: Botanist on June 26, 2017
Those dishes looked like art. Jilda and I both LOVE food, and this looks amazing.
By: Rick Watson on June 28, 2017
Enjoying all your food pictures - and congratulations on losing even more weight! Walking up hills burns a lot of calories, plus I believe the portion sizes in Europe are a little more realistic and not as supersized as they are here.
By: Pixel Peeper on July 4, 2017
You look 10 year younger in your new slimmer self. As for the food, not all restaurants are created equal... even in France.
By: Daniel LaFrance on July 12, 2017

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