Candes Saint-Martin, my favourite spot in La Touraine.

Sunday, 8 September 2013


Last week I asked my mother what she wanted for Saturday (yesterday) lunch. I always try to make something simple yet to her liking. She had heard from her cleaning lady that a new snack-bar had opened just down the road. Actually, it's not really new. Only the location is. The two young women who own the palace have moved down almost a kilometre from up the road where they have kept a very successful snack-bar for 12 years. Their lease had expired though and the proprietor had sold the premises to another young couple who wanted to open ... a snack-bar!

Anyway, to make a long story short, the two young women bought this house, which used to be a residential villa and had been for sale since the last owner, an elderly lady, died. The house wasn't really fit for commercial purposes, and it took the two women a lot of time and a considerable investment to turn it into a workable snack-bar. 

We - well mainly I, because my mother hasn't been out since May - watched the work in progress wondering what the final result would be. On September 1st, they finally opened their new snack-bar. Driving past, I noticed that it was all very clean, modern and ... inviting. However, I wasn't sure it would be open on Saturdays, because these local snack-bars mostly make their living from catering for the local KMO's, which is short for 'Kleine and Middelgrote Ondernemingen' (small and medium sized companies). 

I therefore decided it would be better to be safe than sorry, and went on a 'scouting' trip on Friday. It was three in the afternoon and there was a big handwritten sign on the door: 'UITVERKOCHT' (sold out!). I tried the door handle, but the door was locked. There was no sign anywhere informing customers about the opening hours. Just when I was about to return to the car, a young woman appeared from what must be the kitchen. She signaled that the place was closed, but when I made a big '?' sign, she immediately came to the door and opened it for me. I explained that I was there because I wanted to make sure they were open on Saturday because my 85-year old mother was craving for a 'smos' on Saturday. 

The young woman was genuinely sorry when replying that they were closed on Saturdays and Sundays. I thanked her for the information saying that I would be back next Friday and was about to return to the car, when she stopped me saying, her hand against her throat: "I'm so sorry for your mother. The poor woman!" Her reaction somewhat surprised me as I hadn't been emotional or anything. "Wait, I'll help you giving your mother what she was hoping for." I declined her kind offer, but she insisted. She then disappeared in the kitchen and five minutes later came bag with plastic bag containing two mini baguettes, and the main ingredients for making a 'smos'. "Tomorrow you put the baguettes for five minutes in the oven until they are nice and crisp again and then you do the following ...."

Fresh tomatoes are one of the ingredients for 'smos'.
This jar, at the Château de la Bourdaisière' near Montlouis (37) contains pickled tomatoes.
Not fit for a 'smos'!.

I took out my wallet and asked 'How much do I owe you?" "Nothing," she replied, "This one is on me. I wouldn't want your mother to be disappointed." I insisted, holding out a 20 euro note. But she wouldn't take it. "Enjoy your lunch tomorrow." she smiled before closing the door.

And there I was, feeling very embarrassed ....I certainly will go back next Friday, buying a proper lunch at the right price. In the meantime, my mother and I enjoyed the 'smos' which' I made yesterday using the ingredients I had been given and adding the extras the young woman had told me to. Btw, do you what a 'smos' is and are you interested in knowing the recipe?


chm said...

Such a lovely story and a lovely lady. Of course, I have no idea what a 'smos' is. Sounds exotic to me!

GaynorB said...

A business owner who certainly seems to understand the notion of customer service, relations and above all kindness.

I'm sure she will appreciate your future business.

I am intrigued by what 'smos' are. I know that I could go on line and find out but it will be so much more interesting to wait for your next post...

Susan said...

What an absolutely heartwarming story! You are going to have to tell us the recipe for smos now!

VirginiaC said...

This story brought tears to my eyes...yes I'm emotional like that.
What a kind lady she is. A real customer oriented business owner who has a kind heart.
I would take her some small token of appreciation when I go back on Friday, like a small bunch of flowers to cheer her day.
I'm awaiting the smos recipe too.

Carolyn said...

Of course I want to know what a "smos" is! Never doubt it!

What a kind, generous woman. I hope her/their business is a roaring success.

Nadege said...

How wonderful! I hope you mother was really happy with the food and by the kind act of this charming, compassionate lady! Martine, what is a snack bar exactly?

chm said...

Went online to try finding what a 'smos' is. I had a hard time. I had to reword my question several times and, finally, found it mentioned with Belgian specialties. There were links for most of them, but none whatsoever for 'smos'. So, I still don't know what it is. As we say in French: "Je reste sur ma faim." I'm waiting for the recipe.

Bob said...

a very nice gesture!!! i'm sure you will be visiting her many times in the future. no, i don't know what a "smos" is.

ladybird said...

Chm, The only somewhat exotic ingredient are the tomatoes. And your hunger will soon be stilled :)

Gaynor, It was a very nice commercial and human gesture. I'm looking forward to tasting her version of a 'smos' next Friday.

Susan, One 'smos' recipe coming up! Hope you'll enjoy it.

Virginia, Thanks for the tip! I should have thought of it myself. I'll add a small card wishing them success with their new business venture.

Carolyn, I hope you won't be disappointed when you find out what it is.

Nadege, My mother was very happy indeed. A snack bar is a place that does take-away sandwiches and since recently warm snacks, like pannini. They often have a few tables where you can have your sandwich or simple snacks likes croque-monsieur, toast cannibale, and sometimes even spaghetti bolognaise. They are very popular in Belgium, especially in areas where there are a lot of offices and other businesses. Therefore they are only open at lunchtime and during the week.

Bob, As it is really close by, I guess I'll frequently pop in.