Saturday, August 22, 2009
Lunch in Lyon
On my way to the market this morning, a crooked gray-haired man with leathery sunned skin and a basketful of summer’s harvest under his arm, leaned in as he passed, and, cigarette dangling from his lips, said to me, “très jolie.” Ah, you made me smile little Frenchman, and I remembered an experiment I’ve wanted to try: instead of giving weight to the things that annoy me in life, I’ve wanted to see what would happen if I commented on all the nice thoughts that pass through my mind.
In France, that translates to forgetting the time in Paris when the server questioned why I needed a paper napkin with my coffee, and when I answered honestly, and in French, that I had a cold, and didn’t have any tissues with me to blow my nose, the server replied, “this is a café , not a pharmacy,” and delivered my coffee straight, no napkin. It also means ignoring the time in Lyon when the shopkeeper pulled the carpet up from under my feet as I was passing by, unconcerned that I might have fallen, and it means forgiving the Tabasco incident a while ago, when the French waiter refused to bring the hot sauce for my brunch potatoes because “it is not done”.
It involves a new way. It involves seeing the lovely things here: the pastries that look like lacquered jewels in shop windows (and taste as rich), the red terracotta tiled rooftops sloping with the slow shift of the earth, their brick chimneys rising haphazardly like an obstacle course at dusk for the flying swifts. It means taking in the fragrance of the market (and the character of the brusque but jovial farmers who sell there), the thyme-infused tapenade, the wine soaked goat cheese studded with cloves, the summery rosé with just a hint of pink. It involves appreciating the beauty of a culture that names a fruit mirabelle, that takes an hour and a half for lunch, and funds the arts because, for the French, art is as essential as food. I am smiling as I wander these twisty intimate streets, the sun shining on and shadowing different bits of facades with each turn. The rivers. The churches. The fountains. The old town. The market. The cobblestones. The golden tiptops of buildings. Très jolie...