At dinner tonight, my uncle told a story about going to Paris and trying to find a restaurant his colleague recommended. Speaking no French, he and my aunt assumed they were at the right place, especially when after saying they had a reservation, they were ushered to a choice spot. As they looked around, they saw old men playing cards and other locals enjoying their food.
It seemed an odd recommendation for Lynn, but they went ahead and mentioned that their friend Lynn was a friend of the chef and could they see him. “But I am the chef!” replied the man who had seated them. “Then it must be the owner Lynn knows.” “I am the owner too!” the owner and chef replied. It turned out they were at the restaurant at 150 south, instead of 150 north. “Only in Paris can you end up at the right number at the wrong portion of the street and have it still be a restaurant,” my aunt concluded.
A long discussion followed about this fellow, Lynn, who’s sole hobby is food. He can remember particular dishes from some out of the way restaurant he ate at once six years ago. His entire vacations revolve around food. He always orders a bottle of wine with lunch.
My uncle said he likes food, but who can honestly remember a meal they had that long ago? Sure, he likes a good meal, but he just doesn’t have that kind of palate.
I began wondering, where do I fall? I am still thinking about the shrimp I grilled the other night that came out perfectly. I marinated some wild blue shrimp in curry powder, salt, pepper, olive oil, and Tabasco. And then I grilled them in my cast iron grilling pan until they were just pink on each side. They were delightful on a salad.
And then of course, there is the bagel story:
Last spring, I was running late for class and as usual, had not even had enough time for coffee. As I walked past store after store, I kept thinking about how I wanted a bagel. But then I realized that a hot dog sounded pretty good too. But a hot dog? At 10am? That was too far a stretch. Maybe a bagel was the right answer.
I got to class and as I gazed outside the window, listening to discussions on lyric poetry, I realized what I really wanted — a tripe sandwich from this stand I had been to in Florence the previous June. This stand was amazing, despite being a tripe novice. The day I went it was raining and it took awhile to find the street cart. But when I did, everyone greeted me like I was a long lost relative and a movie star. “You’re from California??? Here!” Next thing I knew, there was a beautiful Italian roll in my hands, filled with steaming tripe that had been simmering in a giant vat for several days, along with tomatoes, spinach, and picante. When I took a bite, everything just melted, even my face, as the steam from it blasted away the cold rainy air.
That’s what I really wanted that spring morning in Berkeley.
But I went home and ended up eating a bagel anyway.