Monday, February 22, 2010
You, sir, are a pack of matches! Paris Part I
Ah, it is lovely to be back in the good ol' U.S.A. Well, sort of. First off, I've realized that there is a complete dearth of charming waiters here who say things like, "ah, monsieur, it is a classic blunder," in response to a poor ordering choice, like say, the Andouille AAAAA sausages featured on many French brasserie menu (pictured at left).
This is not a standard sausage in the America sense but rather a loosely encased collection of intestines that actually spill out you cut it open. I am not usually squeamish (I like sweetbreads and have even eaten chicken feet), but even this was a bit much. It was WAY to much for poor Vronsky, whom I still can't even get to try beets. Luckily, the waiter's charm and the amazing accompanying pomme frites made up for this aforementioned classic blunder. If you had made such a classic blunder here in New York, your waiter would most likely a) laugh in your face b) tell the rest of the staff, and c) laugh some more. Perhaps this fellow did indeed laugh behind our backs, but at least we didn't see it.
Another thing lacking here in NYC? The easy availability of bread so delicious that the thought of marring it's perfect taste with something like butter is ungodly. Yes, there is some pretty awesome bread here in NYC, but you have to actively seek it out. In Paris, every piece of bread, from the littlest cafe to Michelin starred restaurants, provide perfect baguette slices and other starchy wonders.
Bordeaux wine is about an eighth of the price, and by golly, even the bums on the street sound more charming when speaking French.
However, I will say this: At least in NYC there are not gypsies hanging around every corner of the Lourve or the Museé d'Orsay trying to rob you/con you with this weird ring trick they have (more on this later). Also, the French seem to have an abnormally high tolerance for drunks in their restaurants. One loon in particular took extreme offense to my sweet Vronsky, who, although able to speak excellent French, certainly does not look French, being over six feet with curly reddish brown hair. Your classic WASP if you will. I sometimes joke that he stepped right out of Horse and Hound, and while he looks quite urbane most days when he puts on his suit, this little funny of mine is not necessarily far from the truth.
But at least he doesn't look like gypsy bait. Being small, wide-eyed with Parisian glee, wearing a bright orange coat and beret clearly means that you are easy prey for a little pick pocketing. Luckily my time in Russia has made me quite savvy to these tricks and I shooed them all away. But based on appearances alone? Hell, I'd try to rob me too.
Anyway, here we are at the Cafe de Beaux Arts, and this drunk guy next to us has clearly been irritating everyone the entire night, especially the poor girl who was the waitress. Yet no one ever asked him to leave, even though he is smashing the wall with his fists and slurping and smearing his creme bruleé all over his face like a four year old. He takes one look at us as we sit down, and immediately starts to antagonize Vronsky to no end, glaring at him and making weird comments. We tried to ignore him at first, but finally, V lit into him in very fast, extremely irate, French, and told him, among other things, to go F*** himself. I was so impressed! All he needed was a leather glove and the duel would have been ON, baby.
Anyway, after this verbal joust, the drunk was still undeterred, and was now circling around our table and the entire restaurant is watching and waiting with baited breath. The drunk leers over and says, "Ooohh, you, sir, are a macho Englishman." To which Vronsky consummately replies, "And you, sir, are a pack of matches."
Well, he actually meant to say crazy. Crazy in French = Fou. Yet it came out "feu" which literally means a pack of matches.
It must have cut this guy to the core though, as he left right away! We could then enjoy the remainder of our meal in peace, heroes of the bistro, with a complementary glass of champagne and some dessert to boot!