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Food, Glorious Food! Images From a Cycling Journalist’s Race Season

Words/Images: James Startt

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Well, there is nothing like starting at the bottom. Press lunches on the Tour de France can be very hit or miss, and this meal tray merits first prize in the worst press lunch in recent history. From my best guess this was supposed to be roast beef with rice and vegetable salad, with mille-feuille for dessert—all of which proved inedible. I remember it well as it was in Carcassonne, one of my favorite food towns, famous for its cassoulet. But there was none of that southern French dish. Only this! And while the plate went uneaten, I found it visually remarkable in a pulpy Pop Art kind of way. What would Roy Lichtenstein or Andy Warhol make of this?

there is nothing like starting at the bottom press lunches on the tour de france can be very hit or miss

Oh, Andorra! Where else would one find baked beans and rice with bacon? Cyclists may come here for the climbs but in my humble opinion the mountains represent the highpoint of Andorra. A fan of geography growing up, I always thought this little principality tucked away in the Pyrénées sounded so exotic. And then I came here and discovered that there was no quaint little castle on a hill, just an endless stream of tax-free shopping. Making matters worse, I have always found the food here to be underwhelming—and this breakfast was a case in point!

andorra where else would one find baked beans and rice with bacon

Sometimes the Tour press buffets can be a real potpourri. This one got relatively high marks, even though a chicken brochette and a fondant-au-chocolat may not go so well together. But often our time is limited for lunch and lines are long, so you simply grab what you can and run with it.

the tour press buffets can be a real potpourri

To be honest I do not remember when or where I had this dish, and I am not sure what is actually under the sauce. But this plate of meat and potatoes is so lonely that it makes me think of the Tom Waits’ song “Christmas Card from a Hooker in Minneapolis,” one of the loneliest songs I have ever heard.

to be honest i do not remember when or where i had this dish
To be honest I do not remember when or where I had this dish.

Looking at this image I am reminded once again of what was a very difficult start to the 2021 season. Room service was the order of the day in the early-season races. To be honest, I am not sure what this was—maybe some sort of boeuf bourguignon, And the paté on toast, I can assure you, remained in its plastic wrap. But it sure reacted well to my flash!

looking at this image i am reminded once again of what was a very difficult start to the 2021 season

This was one of the truly worst meals on the road this year. I really cannot remember if this shriveled-up dish was some sort of lasagna or hachis parmentier (shepherd’s pie). The salad and crumble were the high points of the meal. For some inexplicable reason, it makes me think of one of my absolutely favorite albums: “More Songs About Buildings and Food,” by Talking Heads.

this was one of the truly worst meals on the road this year

Ah, the unforgettable Belgian sloppy joe with coleslaw remains forever etched in my brain as a central part of my Tour of Flanders weekend. Fortunately, the meal also included potato fritters and mayonnaise!

the unforgettable belgian sloppy joe with coleslaw remains

Another winner from my Tour of Flanders weekend: meatballs in sauce and Belgian fries. I thought the hotel room carpet provided the perfect contrast. Ironically, the food was actually pretty good if memory serves me, with the fries once again being a highlight. It’s funny how each European country has its carb of choice. It is hard to find bad pasta in Italy or a bad baguette in France. And Belgium, well, it is hard to have bad fries.

another winner from my tour of flanders weekend meatballs in sauce and belgian fries
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