Of all the French words/phrases that have been universally adopted, one is “first among equals.” It is the phrase that so perfectly describes social sins, that it has joined such mondiale stalwarts as sex, taxi, and radar.
The phrase, of course, is “faux pas.” We’ve all made them dear reader. Have We not? From the harmless tie in the soup, to the irretrevieable whisper of the wrong name at the magic moment. (If you get my drift. And I think you do.) In my gourmet ramblings, I’ve committed many. Here is one :
I am the guest of a Father/Son chef team who run a medium sized/priced hotel restaurant in the Provencal Alps. After a welcoming verre with Dad and junior, I settle into my ground floor palace for a short siesta. (Hey….I’ve just ridden five mountainous hours in forty degree heat!)
As the Sun lowers the wattage and dinner looms, I torture myself with some Tai Chi exercises on the lawn.The hearty “Bonjour” of Papa Chef pierces my zen-not concentration. He waves in passing; adding with a wagging finger : “Fait attention du Soliel!”
The dining room glows with a genuine familial ambience. Two waiters fuss over Me during the prelimlinaries. Then junior chef himself appears to take my order. The tourists from Des Moines at the next table freeze in mid-forkful. I chose the lamb. Snatching my menu with an Imperial grin; junior chef does a half bow from the waist and scurries stove-ward.
The Iowa escapees have now abandoned eating for furtive whispers. I sniff my wine regally. Impressed by the first round of the dual chef’s efforts, expectation (and saliva) are rising as the lamb arrives.
Three velvet medallions. Partially submerged in a pool of aromatic essence. Rosemary. Thyme. Unknown herbal wonders. First bite. The doors of gourmet heaven opened. Second bite. I saw Escoffier himself. Surfing the room, I groked We were all happy campers. Even the Des Moines. Now eagerly destroying their dessert.
Then, a feeling came over Me, to which I know, dear reader, you will relate. A feeling that rarely emerges. But when it does, is unmistakeable in both intensity and intent. A feeling that is truly undeniable. It is the feeling that informs you, that at this perfect moment, in this perfect place, in front of all these strangers, that you, are going to bring up your cookies! You – Bicycle Gourmet – exotic stranger from the far away lands….are about to – HURL!
The waiter sussed my discomfort. (My color, perhaps?) I rose slowly, casually, with my best always-turn-this-color-when-I-eat-lamb smile. And strode confidently toward the exit stairs. The feeling persisted. But I was in control. A jaunty wave as I passed reception and reached the stairs. Suddenly, I was not in control.
Bolting down the stairs, I reached the bottom in two giant leaps. Just as the door opened and my lamb exited. Decorating the shoes of a well coiffed matron just entering. Fortunately, head down, I was unrecognizeable as I stumbled forth into the starry, starry night.
Any respectable Asian, would, of course, have fallen on his sword then and there. But, alas, I, white trash with no blade, was destined for a more extreme punishment. Lying awake all night, wondering how I was going to face my hosts in the morning!
The night’s agony produced no solution. Naturally, I passed on breakfast. Brain immobile. Body Fragile. I hid in my room ‘til just before noon. Then, after successfully slithering unnoticed to the middle of the lawn – they got Me!
It was Papa chef. He beamed a big smile. Then, again wagging his Fatherly finger intoned : “Fait attention du Soliel, eh?” Hal-a-freakin-loo-yeah! Saved by French culinary hubris! Bien sur…….it would never occur to a French chef that his cooking could be responsible , so, it must have been, too much sun!
Lamb and I now have a distant relationship. I pass them. In their fields. At a distance.
THROW ME A BONE HERE, PEOPLE!
What are ya thinkin’?