Wednesday, 8 February 2017
Strange encounter at the restaurant
A most odd thing happened to me at the restaurant the other day. I was at a business meeting and I took the client I was with, Veronique Tombal, to a French restaurant.
She had frogs' legs; but I'll admit the rest of her body was superb.
Anyway, we sat down at table and after ordering our meals I asked for a bottle of Beaujolais. The waiter brought the bottle and, as is customary, he poured a few drops in a glass to be tasted first. Then, to my surprise, he picked up the glass and tasted it himself. I've never ever seen such a thing before. Usually, it is the customer who tastes the wine, and usually says something complementary about it as it is served to all at table.
But this time, the waiter, or sommelier as he is known, tasted the wine himself. Stranger still, he then declared, "Oh non monsieur ... ziz wine, eet haz been corked. Eet ees no good! I will gett anozer bottle!"
He then went away and returned with another bottle, which he opened there and then and pouring a drop or two in a glass he tasted it again.
"Zis one is better!" he said, as he served me and my business client.
Then, even more stranger, he poured wine in the glass he had already used for himself and sat with us at table.
I did not know what to say or do. I did not want to seem ungracious and tell him to go away, and before I had time to speak he said, "Eet eez very important to make sure ze wine eet has not been corked. Zis ees when ze bottle haz been badly opened and ze wine has touched ze cork and ze atmosphere at ze same time. Ze wine eez zen ruined."
"I see," I said, not having understood a word. Veronique smiled and said nothing.
"Wine, ees a very important part of ze meal," he continued, "especially in la belle France!"
Veronique smiled and asked, "Avez-vous toujours été un sommelier?" Meaning, have you always been a wine waiter?
"Oh non, madame ..." he declared, "before zat I was a snail farmer. I used to farm snails for ze best restaurants in Paris. Eet was a slow job sometimes aving to round zem up for ze night! I ad a sheep dog which walked slowly around ze field and he pushed ze snails with hiz nose in ze direction of ze barn where we kept ze snails for ze night!
"Wee started at about 2 in ze afternoon and got all ze snails in ze barn by 6 in ze evening.
"Ze next morning wee let zem out again to go in ze field for a promenade and to eat ze fresh grass."
"That's not how you farm snails," I said quietly.
"Oh monsieur, ours were ze free range snails. Not ze snails in cages. Wee let zem out in ze morning to walk freely in ze meadows and to tip ze toe through ze too lips!"
Veronique and I smiled and said nothing.
"One day we ad ze break-out!" he continued as he ordered another bottle of Beaujolais from the waiter serving our meals.
"You mean a break-in!" I corrected.
"Non monsieur," he replied, "a break out. During ze night some snails zey climbed up ze barn door and opened ze latch which held ze door closed. All ze snails zey escaped.
"In ze morning wee started a search for zem. Wee searched all around ze farm for a ten metres radius and wee did not find zem. Not even one. Zey ad all escaped. So wee brought in ze police elicopters to fly up and search wider. Wee widened ze search by anozer alf metre all around but wee found nothing. Zee snails ad travelled more than ten and a alf metres in one day!"
"Why did you not search further and for longer?" I asked.
"Oh monsieur, "he replied, "it waz ze time for the petit déjeuner ... ze breaky fast ... you know ... du pain, du vin et du fromage!"
Veronique and I looked at each other and smiled.
"And now monsieur et madame I ave to go and serve anozer table. Merci beaucoup for allowing me to taste your wine.
"May I try one of your escargots, pleeze?" he said as he picked a snail from my plate and left mumbling to himself, "eet needs more of ze garlique!!!"