French Food. Gourmet food. Can be. Often is. But,like any activity that blends unequal parts of human involvement,perishable ingredients,and pictures of dead Presidents, there are levels of quality. The Penthouse. The Mezzanine. The Basement.
This is a Tale of the basement
It begins in a quaint(and,are’nt they all?)French roadside “bistro.” Think – more than a café – less than a restaurant. “Good country cookin’.”Enter ,center stage, my pal Philippe and his American wife,Cathy. Almost home. Long car trip. Ready to chill with some “good country cookin’.”
Inside, ancient oak beams and weathered stone. 300 years old if it’s a day. The waiter,casually professional, offers them a complimentary apero as he deposits the menu. Good start.
Although Phillipe and Cathy really do have adventurous palettes, road weary and more than ready for some comforting, familiar grub, they opt for “Coq au Vin.”(chicken cooked in wine.)The most classic of classic French dishes.
That done, they stretch their legs(drinks in hand,bien sur) and stroll around the Salle”. It’s decorative motif is “early iron farm hand tools.”Featuring faded sepia photos of dour, beared Men, accompanied by non smiling ramrod straight Women.(obviously members of that era’s “Women united against alcohol,fishing and fun” league.)
The Moment of Untruth
Finally, the moment their stomachs have longed for arrives. The kitchen doors fly open, as the waiter strides proudly forth. Napkins adjusted. Forks clutched. Taste buds on red alert. Then, with that theatrical flourish particular to servers the World over, the waiter joyously hoists the silver cover. Philippe and Cathy lean forward in rapturous anticipation to inhale the sublime aroma. Cathy’s nose twitches. Then crinkles. Philippe grimaces and frowns. It is not sublime.
Faux Damage control
His balloon of enthusiasm suddenly deflated, the waiter, like a good trial lawyer, asks the question to which he already knows the answer.”Is something wrong,Sir?” Philippe fixes him with a steely gaze.”This chicken came from a can!” “Absolutely not,Sir! This is a free range chicken from the farm of the Chef’s brother…cooked from the family recipie of the Chef’s…”Bullshit!”Philippe interrupted. “This chicken can from a can!!!
Bolting up, Phillipe gets in the waiters face. “I was born on a chicken farm! I’ve fed chickens,plucked chickens,butchered chickens….(tapping the waiter’s chest for emphasis) I’m famous in my village for my Coq Au Vin!…..from my Grandmother’s recipie!…..I know chickens, and I know this chicken came from a can!! I demand to speak to the Chef!!!
Imagine, for a moment, you’re the waiter. The angry client has the physique of a linebacker. And, he’s on the verge of exploding. Do you: A) keep insisting the chicken is God’s perfect grain fed creation? Or B) get the Chef. You know the answer, dear reader, do you not?
The 200 lb. Can Opener
With as much regal as his 200 plus lbs. can muster, the Chef waddles forth. Sensing(correctly)that sweetness and smiles will not save his chubby butt – the microwave wonder regurgitates the waiter’s rant. Loudly. With an imperially indignant tone. Rightly having none of it, Phillipe pushes chicken man aside and strides toward the kitchen.”That f….ing chicken came from a can, and I’m going to find it!”Squawking like…..well….you what …chicken man and toothpick man trail in Philippe’s righteous wake.
Panic in Microwave Park
Kitchen help, quick to recognize(and r-e-s-p-e-c-t) a bull in their China shop,(wisely)scatter. Rampaging through the garbage,Philippe manages to pull out “The Smoking Gun”, just as his chubbyness arrives. Still not conceding defeat he proclaims :”Ok – it does come from a can. But it’s a grain fed free range chicken from here, so there’s absolutely no difference in quality.”(Now that’s hubris!)
Philippe, seriously losing it, is now in the Chef’s face – big time! “You’re a discrace to your Nationality and your profession….Not only will I report you to the food authorities, I’m suing you for misrepresentation, and lying about your misrepresentation!” Philippe hurls the can across the kitchen and storms out.
No After Dinner Mints
As Phillipe and Cathy head for the exit, his chubbyness waddles (strenuously)after them. “So!……you’re leaving without paying your bill?!” “Bill?” Philippe thunders. “You should be paying us for your deception! “I’m calling the police” chicken man retorts. “Please do. Then the flic can not only testify for me, he’ll also tell everyone in the village that your”regional cusine” comes from a can!!
Throwing in the Towel
Beaten, busted, disgusted, flustered, not to mention exasperated, the best come back Monsieur can jockey can muster is : “Beouf!….you…..you…
Americans!!! That was the straw that broke the linebacker’s back. Lunging forward,grabbing his chubbyness by the shoulders and pinning him against the wall, Philippe seethes :” Listen you – (a four letter English word beginning with “c”,ending in “t”,and rhyming with “runt.”) – If it was’nt for Americans in 1945, today you’d be speaking German!!!”
OK – So that’s the basement level. The “bad apple in the barrel.” Chances of finding another “haute cuisine can opener” on the Mezzanine are almost impossible. And, definitely impossible in the Penthouse.
The Bottom line
French food. Gourmet food? Not always Gourmet. Almost always good. That’s my experience. And you agree with me – right?
THROW ME A BONE HERE PEOPLE!
What are ya thinkin’?