Wednesday, July 27, 2011
40th Anniversary Report: Would You Like An Argument With That Meal?
We went to the restaurant at 7 o'clock, which is a little early to eat by French standards, but not unreasonable, and there was no one there except the cook, who worked in a small open area just to the left of the tables, a waiter and two women sitting at tables on the sidewalk. We weren't sure if we were at the right restaurant for the brochure, but the women and the waiter, standing at the door, assured us we were at the right place and bade us come in. We had our free apertifs and had put in our orders for our meals (an onion tart, chateaubriand with bearnaise sauce and a creme brulee, for me, and onion soup, boef bourguignon and chocolate mousse for The Wife.)
All was well until we heard some loud shouting in the street. (Of course, this being Paris, the street side of the cafe was open to the outside.) We craned our necks and there appeared to be some kind of altercation between one of the women who had been sitting outside our cafe, and a man in a tie and white shirt who appeared connected somehow with one of the restaurants on the other side of the street. They were really going at it, and at one point, the woman grabbed the man's tie and appeared to be trying to choke him with it. The waiter rushed out of our restaurant and some people came out of the restaurant across the street and they physically separated the combatants, but the yelling continued unabated.
Finally, the woman came back and sat down at the table outside our cafe, but she continued yelling at the man who kept yelling back, sometimes approaching close to her and then being dragged away by people from the other side. I expected the gendarmes to come and haul the two enemies to jail for disturbing the peace, but none showed up. The arguments continued sporadically for another half hour or so, well into and past our entrees.
I asked our waiter what it was all about and he just shook his head and looked disgusted. At one point, when the yelling had abated somewhat, I asked the woman what the problem was and she said that sometimes men think they hear something, which they didn't hear and it goes right from the ear to the head. I couldn't understand why our waiter didn't throw the woman out because she was clearly disturbing the customers (still only two) but he didn't.
When the woman and her friend finally left, midway through our entree, I asked the waiter again what the problem was and he said something about sometimes one restaurant thinks the other has too many customers. That didn't make much sense either since none of the places was exactly full, certainly not ours which had 10 tables and only ours occupied.
I had an idea that maybe the woman owned the restaurant we were in, asked the waiter and he admitted that she was the owner. Later, a cook from across the street came over and asked to borrow some butter, which the cook in our restaurant quickly gave to him, so I take it any enmity was solely between the owners and not the staff.
By the time we left the restaurant, at about 8:30, we had been the only customers. So, I guess times are hard for restaurateurs in the part of Paris; either that or the yelling proprietors have developed a reputation and driven everyone away except the occasional tourist.
Tonight, our last night in Paris, we're off to the the Pure Cafe, the little cafe featured in that wonderful movie, Before Sunset. Then tomorrow, it's off to London for a few days.