There are a great many things that I love about France. And there are a few things that I definitely do not love about France. At the top of the list, perhaps even higher than French administration, is the serious lack of soy milk.
I cannot understand it. For a country that has possibly some of the freshest and most exquisite produce in the world, an impressive and most extensive range of foodstuffs, hundreds upon hundreds of cheese varieties with only the most subtle nuances of difference, how is it that they cannot offer something so basic as a choice between dairy milk or soy milk, anywhere? Seriously.
Today I have been en-route to Switzerland. This morning, upon waking very early with not nearly enough sleep, I felt grumpy and irritable. I usually LOVE train rides, but I was not loving this one. With a niggling head reminding me I needed to use these 7 hours on the train productively – with freelance to do, french to study, a lecture to write, photos to edit – and nil inspiration backing me, I knew there was only one simple yet totally fail-proof measure to fix all of that: Just give this girl her coffee.
So imagine my excitement to arrive in Lyon for a 2 hour stopover, walk outside, look up to the sky and see a huge red sign glittering magnificently in the morning sunlight right before me … Illy. And then, to see a huge, beautiful modern cafe with glass windows, red seats and white tables, minimalist decor, guys in suits drinking lattes while tapping away on their laptops right before me. A world away from the typically intimate and smoky French brasserie with wicker chairs and neon signs I am used to. I really could have been walking into a Cibo. The cafe was air-conditioned. There was lovely relaxing background music playing. The smell of espresso was irresistible. The coffee menu was magnificent. And forget café crème – they had real cappuccinos, lattes and frappes on the menu. But soy milk? Of course not.
I was so completely deflated. But I was not to be defeated. So, with my biggest inviting smile and very best French, I asked the waiter if it would be possible for me to buy my own soy milk, bring it back to the cafe and have my soy coffee in peace. Oui, c’est possible, said the waiter, clearly amused by my indigence. Music to my ears!
So that’s what I did. I found the nearest Monoprix (Aussie equivalent to Woolworths) and returned with a carton of organic soy milk. And here I am, tapping away with my own possibly more than perfect soy cappuccino next to me. Grumpiness? Vanished. Irritability? Not a care in the world. Happy? Blissfully content. Sleepy? So totally alert. Lecture? All over it like a rash. Good coffee? Oh yes. Enjoyed it so much that I am about to order my second.