The small town of Sainte Mere Eglise in Normandy is where most D Day beach tours stop for lunch. Its claim to fame? The first town in France liberated by the Allies in June ,1944. During our tour of the D Day beaches with Overlord tours, we stopped here too. In this nondescript place , I found Un Monde sans Faim and what followed was a wonderful vegetarian meal and some great conversation with Mark the owner.
The WW2 connection
The town itself is very small, with an estimated population of less than 2000. Its main claim to fame is the American paratroopers’ invasion during the Second World War.
The 82 nd AirbornThe town itself is very small, with an estimated population of less than 2000. Its main claim to fame is the American paratroopers’ invasion during the Second World Ware division and the 101 st Airborne divisions of the US Army descended on Sainte Mere Eglise in the early hours of 6 June, 1944.
Unfortunately, the surprise attack turned into disaster, at least initially. A house on fire that night in the village led to the descending paratroopers being clearly illuminated, making them easy targets. One of them, John Steele, got stuck on the church steeple and survived by pretending to be dead. Captured and taken prisoner later, his story is now legendary. So much so that a dummy paratrooper hangs from the steeple of the church of Sainte Mere Eglise, commemorating his story.
Despite this initial setback , the American flag was flying proudly over Sainte Mere Eglise by 04:30 am, 6th June, 1944.
There is also a small Airborne museum here, which made for interesting viewing in our lunch break.
The town square also has a small church. The church has 2 stained glass windows – one depicting Virgin Mary surrounded by descending paratroopers and the other shows St Michael, who is the patron saint of paratroopers. It is a small but pretty church and we spent sometime walking around it.
The town was teeming with American soldiers when we visited on the 2nd of June this year. They were planning a recreation of the paratroopers invasion of 1944 on the 6th of June. Every year , the town comes alive around this time and veterans of the war are celebrated.
However, our visit to this town was memorable due to Un Monde sans Faim. Translated, it means ‘A world without hunger’. Mark and his girlfriend run the place – doubling up as chef , waiter and manager. He is an Englishman whose travels around the world finally ended in Sainte Mere Eglise. When he decided to open a restaurant, it ended up representing his love for food , art and jazz!
The restaurant is a small, cozy place with jazz posters adorning the walls and interesting trinkets all around . The menu is very small and changes every day. The food is all freshly made and is home style cooking. We had an Italian salad which was yummy. We also had Thai pad noodles (in Normandy!), which Mark made for us specially as we requested a vegetarian version. The dish was full of flavor with a strong taste of ginger and lemongrass. After days of eating bland European food , it was heavenly! The Eton Mess they had on offer for dessert looked delicious, though we didn’t have any.
We got into conversation with Mark and learnt about his love for Asian food. He shared anecdotes on his travels through India in the 1980s and we spent a pleasant hour, eating and talking. Being the only customers at the time meant that we had the place to ourselves. A ‘Closed’ sign notwithstanding, , Mark offered to rustle up lunch for us hungry folk. It was a great meal and I am glad we could eat there.
So, it is quite possible to have vegetarian food even in a small village in Normandy! If you ever find yourself in St Mere Eglise , do yourself a favour and eat here. You will not regret it!
Read more: Our quest for vegetarian food in Spain