On the Train From London to Paris, You Never Know Whose Food You'll Get

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UNDER THE ENGLISH CHANNEL -- I’m currently on the train to France via the Chunnel, although no one here calls it the Chunnel. They say they’re taking the Eurostar, the high-speed train that connects London to Paris in just over two hours. I say I’m taking the Chunnel.

The train is going about 180 miles an hour, but the ride is relatively gentle and smooth. It’s a wonderful way to travel, and I’ve been fortunate to take in numerous times. Each time I’ve been amazed at how bad the food is. Yes, one end of the train is in Great Britain, not known for its food (and to my British friends who read me here, I love you dearly, but even you admit that your cuisine, on a whole, is not exactly haute). But the other end of the train is in France, where they know what haute cuisine is, even in French. On one of my trips under the English Channel, we were served roast turkey, stuffing and cranberry sauce. It was a few days after the American Thanksgiving, so maybe they felt like they needed to acknowledge it. They really shouldn’t have. No one’s Aunt Bessie -- the maiden aunt who can’t cook worth a damn -- could have made a turkey dinner worse than this one. Absolutely horrible. Or, as they say in French, horrible.

But today’s dinner may indicate they’re starting to get it. I had a very nice salad of arugula with beets and walnuts and balsamic vinegar and oil dressing. My entree choice was, in French, parmentier au jambon sale, or, in English, ham hock pie. It featured shredded pork topped with mashed potatoes that wasn’t half bad. The green beans, called fine beans, not even haricot verts, were forgettable, and the carrots promised on the menu were missing. Dessert was a strawberry shortbread with vanilla cream, very nicely done.

The meals are served airline style, which is to say the salad and dessert are handed on trays with the entree choice delivered with tongs. (The other choice was a quiche, which my companion had but which my companion did not share; I’ll take that as a sign that it, too, was more acceptable than in the past.)

I’ve recommended the Chunnel (Eurostar) in the past, and I recommend it still. But I no longer will suggest people shop the Rue di Rivoli for sandwiches before boarding. And, by the way, little tiny bottles of wine are compris on board.