Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Dutifully padding about the temples of gastronomy

      And yet she loved all things 
      French, loved being in France.
      When we went there en famille
      after the war she exclaimed
      continuously on its marvelous
      Frenchness, everything was just
      as French as she remembered it -
      'Look,' she said, as we drove
      away from the boat through Cal-
      ais, 'the very streets - the 
      cars, a Citroën, James! - oh,
      a gendarme, and there, the lit-
      tle outside lavatory, they're
      called pissoires, and you see
      the wine shops - James, see the
      windows! all that wine - and the
      pavement cafés and there's a pâ-
      tisserie' - she said the word
      with such a French flourish -
      'you boys have never tasted a
      real French pâtisserie - do stop,
      James, and we'll have a pâtisser-
      ie, the boys can have their first
      tarte aux pommes!'

      James stopped, and she led us
      to the little shop, its open
      counter just off the pavement
      laden with cakes, fruit tarts,
      &c, the smell of their recent
      baking hanging in the warm air,
      and it's certainly true that
      Nigel and I had never seen such
      a display, not smelt such smells
      - 'peach, pear, apple,' she said,
      'apricot, fraises, framboises -
      and that's the one I'll have' -
      she gestured at it, one of her
      grand gestures - 'the black-
      berry!' and a swarm of flies
      rose up from it, leaving not a
      blackberry but a plain custard
      tart - ...


Simon Gray
The Last Cigarette
Granta, 2008©

This volume in the
"Smoking Diaries"
was nominated by
the Head Master
of Eton for Hey-
wood Hill's List
of 100 Something-
or-Other. Fright-
ening to consider,
one could have
missed it.

Fionn Creber

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