The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Spaghetti

Carbonara
Carbonara

September 1991, it was a beautiful morning over the Breton Capital. I had left behind the hills of Glenveagh National Park, my first real summer job, for another, scarier adventure: independence and freedom. So long mother and father, I am 18 now and your evil powers have no effect on me anymore… Cutting at last the proverbial umbilical cord, living the dream! I was meeting my olf friend “The Hero” in the Ozone Bar, two years older, kinda wiser too; he felt that it was his duty, as a big brother figure, to welcome and show me the ropes, places to hang out and other music venues to be part of. “You are staying with us until you get sorted, you hear?” His statement came as a relief, I hadn’t planned that far, and sure, I knew Rennes, very well even, but only as a child with the eyes of innocence. I was a man now see, free in the big city at last! I quickly finished my skinny glass of Maes Pils and followed my compadre toward the giant spaceship like building that was the Judiciary precinct; “Galion Street”, my new quarter, my new home… And how appropriately named for my new voyage!

Le Bastard Street
Le Bastard Street

Two other students from our secondary school were sitting on the sofa, browsing in a bohemian Van Gogh pose at the weekly released satirical newspaper “Charlie Hebdo”. “Ça va?” “Ça va” I replied nonchalantly, playing the game, afraid of making a faux pas. My stomach was rumbling since we had left St Malo Street, a bit nervous of course, but also completely starving. We were broke, at least until our grants and credits would come through but that wouldn’t be for another few weeks. We just had enough dough for rent, to buy beer and bread. Very kindly, “The Hero” made me a baguette sandwich, with raw slices of onions and Dijon mustard. I could really taste the independence and freedom, gently burning my eyes and the lining of my stomach, but I welcomed it with reverence and gratitude…

Onion Sandwich
Onion Sandwich

The first couple of weeks passed very quickly and we got a good system going; the two students used to come back from their respective homes on Sunday evening, their bags filled with leftovers in Tupperware that were able to feed us all until Monday evening. Tuesday, our oldest friend Sergio used to visit us. He was training to become a Master Crêpier, a Jedi of the Breton pancake if you wish. He knew we were on hard times, so he brought with him salami, crepes and a bit of cheese. Wednesday started to be a bit tricky, so we fed ourselves of the previous night’s memories or another onion-mustard baguette special… No thanks. By Thursday, the situation became a bit more critical. I got up early that morning and just told my friends that I would be back late afternoon. To be fully accepted by the pack, I had to do something. Tail between the legs, I headed back for the woods.

Salami, crepes and cheese
Salami, crepes and cheese

I walked for about 30 minutes across the city before reaching a great hitchhiking spot, Westward, just outside the Citroën garage. I had a plan to save the face while holding on to some humility and pride. I thumbed it back home, 120kms journey each way, then another eight on country roads to reach my parents house; they were both at work. Once there, I knew how to open the garage door without anyone being aware of my little intrusion. I opened my rucksack and stocked up on Spaghetti, bacon, a few eggs and a bit of cheese that my mother kept in abundance in the bric-a-brac that was our cellar. One thing for sure, my loot would go unnoticed, and most important, my pride intact. The voice in my head kept on going like a broken record: “It’s between you and your conscience man, be-tween-you-and-your-con-science!”. “Alright, give it a rest Jiminy!”.

On the road again
On the road again
Broke on the road
Broke on the road

I finally made it back to Rennes, tired but with a big winning smile on my face. My flatmates couldn’t believe their eyes as I laid open the bag of hunting and gathering, all the ingredients for a feast that was to be had that very evening and would see us fed through the weekend, “I can smell Carbonara!” Tom shouted, while the whole kitchen was filling with delirious laughter, “The Hero” took advantage of the commotion, and pulled two bottles of wine out of his secret stash, and banged them on the table. ..

Cooking bacon
Cooking bacon
Eggs and Spaghs
Eggs and Spaghs

The end of a perfect meal and the end of a long day came to a close. I looked at my friends, I felt accepted, another rite of passage done. I repeated my little escapades another couple of times, before we all started to get paid. I moved to my own place a couple of months later, up town, but I remained a faithful visitor to Galion Street and its crew… You can never separate a pack of starving wolves. No matter what.

Gruel Carbonara with Creme Fraiche and mustard
Carbonara with Creme Fraiche and mustard

Keep Well and Eat Happy

Slán Tamall

Franck

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