If it seems that I fell off the face of the blogging universe, it was due to the fact that my mom has been in Paris for the past week, and blogging hasn’t fit into our schedule of sites, long walks, museums, the ballet, and good meals. Besides a 2 hour layover in Paris some 30 years ago, my mom has never been to France, thus I packed as much into our time as possible. We spent a day in Versailles marveling at the gaudy grandeur of Lois XIV, then another day in Chartres soaking in the tranquil cathedral, but the bulk of our time was spent enjoying Paris.
Besides the fact that we look alike, my mom and I are linked by a simple truth: we are both foodies. We love finding cute restaurants, dainty desserts, and culinary oddities. I honestly feel that many cultures can be studied through the lens of what and how they eat, or at least, that was the rationale we continued to employ at each snack break. Every person who comes to see me has some particular French treat that they can’t get enough of (if you have read more than 2 or 3 of my posts picked at random, you probably know that mine is macarons). For my mom, we rarely passed on an almond pastry or chocolat chaud à l’ancienne. Far superior to regular hot chocolate, the French version consists of a pitcher of straight melted chocolate and a bowl of fluffy whipped cream, which you mix to your liking. As someone who feels that the more superfluous and lovely items you can use to eat something the better, I never tire of the ritual. And as France is a country that I rarely see choosing efficiency and practicality over beauty, they usually supply enough extra kitchen and table trinkets to make me happy. Why have just a cup for hot chocolate when you could have a cup, saucer, pitcher of chocolate, bowl of cream, bowl of sugar cubes (brown and white), at least 2 spoons, wafer to dip in the chocolate, and lovely tray to hold it all?
By far our most “cultural” dining experience was at a restaurant we found off the beaten path late one night. Here is the exchange I had with the waiter, who was also the owner and busboy, beginning by me asking if they happened to have a menu in English for my mom:
Fernand (Waiter/owner/busboy): Of course not! Do they give me menus in French when I go to the states?
Hannah: Oh well, ok (translating for mom and then ordering). She’ll have the lamb and a diet coke.
Fernand: (calmly, and nicely, but unflinching in his resolve) Absolutely not. She can not drink Coke with my lamb! It would be an insult. How would you like the lamb cooked?
Hannah: She would like it well down.
Fernand: (throwing his hands up) Impossible! You will massacre the whole meal! Well done? You might as well eat this table! (raps table to emphasize point while my mom just stares and smiles, not understanding any of the French exchange)
Hannah: I know, I know, but she likes it that way. I’ll have mine medium (trying to placate him)
Fernand: Americans! You must civilize her. Hers will be medium too and she will like it.
Despite his bossiness, our food was perfect, and Fernand was a delight, later telling us about his taste in country music. As we left, my mom and I were jok
ing that no waiter would ever discourage you from ordering anything extra in the US, even if it would “massacre the meal.” Pushy, Fernand was, but it was also comforting to have someone proud of what he does and more interested in the perfection of the product then the price he could charge us for it.