Tuesday, July 29, 2008

French Chocolate

Like probably everyone who does one of these them there blogs, in the back of my mind there is a tiny little dream that if I designed this thing a little differently, I might somehow hit on a magic formula that would draw hundreds, thousands, even millions of eyeballs to the site. You know, something like ‘Stuff White People Like.’ I’ve thought of doing ‘Things That People Know Are Great But Which Are Actually Underrated Anyway’ (Shakespeare, Spielberg, the Beatles, Woody Allen, Philip Roth), for instance, but I know I’d run out pretty soon and then I’d just be padding the thing and being totally dishonest, and who wants to make a killing being dishonest? (Okay, maybe that's a different entry…)

Which brings me to chocolate. I like chocolate. I do. I’d rather eat a piece of chocolate than I would a piece of fish, or rock candy, or probably most dessert-type options. But I am not in any sense of the word a chocoholic. (Actually there’s really only one sense of that word, I’m guessing…) But see, I know people who LOVE chocolate, people who mush up their chocolate cake with a fork to make the whole thing a delicious pudding that will last longer, people who steal their granddaughters' chocolate when it’s stored in the refrigerator and then have to replenish it later because they simply couldn’t help themselves, people who try to carry it with them everywhere at all times, people who go weak at the site of the stuff. I am not one of those people. (One example of how much I am not one of these people is that I really like white chocolate, in fact maybe even prefer it, which to a true chocolate lover is probably like someone who'd rather watch a baseball game on artificial turf.)

So whenever people used to ask me if I wanted a piece of chocolate, or if there was a piece of chocolate cake being passed around and we were all being given spoons, I would tend to feel slightly guilty – “sure, I’ll have some,” I would think, “but someone else would enjoy this chocolate a lot more than I’m going to.” For the longest time, therefore, chocolate was Item #1 on the list of ‘Stuff I Like that I Know Other People Like More and That I Therefore Feel a Little Guilty about Enjoying, or Even Wonder if there isn’t Something Wrong with me for not Liking more than I do.”

I’m not saying that’s a blog designed to get me a huge advance ($300,000 for 'Stuff White People Like'?!?!), but anyway there it is.

Which brings me to France. Fine country. Beautiful. The light. The food. Wine, if you like that kind of thing. The somehow sophisticated relationship between nature and civilization. And yes, a beautiful-sounding language. It’s all quite wonderful. Paintings. Manet. Monet. The whole bit.

Only guess what? I don’t really like France. I think France is too fancy. French food is too creamy and complicated, and I just basically think the whole place is a little precious. I didn’t buy it. And not that everything has to come down to comparisons, but you know, I liked England better. Always rooted for England in those mid-millennium wars anyway, and just in general preferred the English thing to the French thing. Better Sherlock Holmes than Hercule Poirot. (I know, he was Belgian, but you know what I mean…) Give me London and Churchill and the Beatles, and you can have your Louis Quattorze and De Gaulle and Edith Piaf …. (And I am not even getting into the whole issue of national character, or rudeness, or smell... I'm basically leaving the people of France entirely out of this discussion - just the country alone, it's not for me.)

So when I told friends I was going to France for work for a week, they‘d say things like “Ooooh, I’m so jealous,” and I’d be torn between the cruel sincerity of “Don’t be, I don’t even like the place,” and the purely assholic “Yes, I know.”

Well now I'm back, and you know what my greatest memory of the trip was? Sitting by a road in the middle of basically nowhere – I was told by Nigel the brilliant British filmmaker who was our cameraman that it was the equivalent of a small town in South Carolina – and having a dinner by the side of a country road while the sun was still fairly high in the sky at about 8:30 at night. I had a simple little egg white omelette with onions. (Go ahead, laugh – the lovely French woman who ran the place with her husband and took the order did, as my English was translated into French by David, our crack PA on the trip.) And as the three of us sat and had our meal with the light simply gorgeous, with a little church up the road 100 yards (or metres, sorry), the occasional car driving by, the clouds a glorious glowing yellowish pink overhead... the meal was the greatest egg dish of my life, and I washed it down with a Panache (half lemonade, half beer, all refreshing), and life was about as it good as it can get.

But it got better. Because at the end of the meal, this lovely round French woman brought me a CafĂ© au Lait, and, even though I hadn’t ordered it, she brought me something else: a small, perfect piece of chocolate.



DFW said...

You like chocolate, but not so much. You like France, but not really. An omelette changes your mind. You can't resist chocolate and France. Look in that roadside ditch. Right there, next to your egg yolks. Those are your principles.

Brooks Hansen said...

I hope you would not think me too bold, or too revealing, in suggesting that it was I who made you feel that way about chocolate, old chum, and you who made me feel that way about Farrah Fawcett...

Nick said...

And did you have your Farrah conversion moment, may I ask?

(Yes, you and your Joe Namath are the ones about whom I felt most acutely guilty with respect to chocolate -)

As for dfw, what happened to consistency and hobgoblins and small minds and all that?