Saturday, August 2, 2008

Le Bistrologue Revisited

“If you are lucky enough to have lived in Paris as a young man, then wherever you go for the rest of your life it stays with you, for Paris is a moveable feast.”  –Ernest Hemingway

Something seemed right about going back to Le Bistrologue for lunch on my last day in Paris.  It was a sunny day; a cool breeze combed through the leaves of the tall trees that line Boulevard Diderot—a reminder that fall was coming, and that I would not be there to see it.  My cousin Nora and I took a table on the sidewalk, consulted the chalkboard menu, talked about our regrets about living in France.  I couldn’t come up with too many. 

I was in a fuck-all sort of a mood.  Leaving France will do that to you.

I ordered a glass of Sancerre.

I ordered foie gras, which came in three trapezoidal taupe tiles speckled disquietingly with yellows and purples that were undetectable on the tongue.  I spread it on toasted baguette, sometimes adding a little fig jam from the side of my plate; I cut off small squares of the pâté with my fork and put them in my mouth and felt them melt away.  “Rich” is a word I throw around a lot when describing food, but Le Bistrologue’s foie gras made me feel like the boy who cried wolf. 

I ordered confit de canard, which had been speared with a sprig of rosemary and a bay leaf that looked like flags claiming a virgin continent.  Fat had seeped into the duck leg, reducing its flesh to soft brown flinders that separated from the bone with the merest prodding of a fork.  The skin was crisp in places, soft and quivering in others; the dark meat evoked Thanksgiving turkey to my still unskilled palate.  The confit was served with a heap of caramel-colored fried potato cubes and a sorry-looking green salad.  I saw no need to touch the salad; I couldn’t get enough of the potatoes.

I ordered fondant au chocolat, two moussy slices in a pool of crème anglaise, then I swapped with Nora for her crème brulée:  shiny, deep yellow custard under a sheet of burnt sugar that stuck in my teeth.  

It was a fine French meal. 

I had spent much of my time in Paris complaining:  about the coldness of the locals, about the red tape around every corner, about the soullessness of a city whose heyday is long past.  But when I boarded my plane at Charles de Gaulle the day after my meal at Le Bistrologue, I could already feel the sepia tones trickling across my memories of Paris.  And at the top of the list of memories to be romanticized was this poultry-fat-laden, impeccably Gallic lunch at Le Bistrologue, this meal that I have no intention of trying to recreate but that I will likely take with me for the rest of my life.


redneck muppet said...

well done.

i remember that plane ride. it's long, and filled with sights and sounds and smells. as my e-mail let on, 7 years later i still remember corner sandwich shops, indian joints tucked around corners in the southern 17th, and moroccan joints for tagine near the bastille.

you don't lose that.

Joy said...

it would be lovely if you keep writing about food after your return to the U.S. I'm curious how your return (or maybe not?) to full-time vegetarianism goes, how your omnivorous phase looks to you after a bit of time and distance.