Paris, France. Mid Morning
“C’est ici! C’est ici!” Shouted the tall, handsome Michael (pronounced Mee-shell). “Beaujolais Nouveau!”
Barbara and Micheal were beside themselves with glee. They had waited for this day with the intense anticipation of children waiting for Santa.
As Micheal turned to me and noticed my close resemblance to a possum staring into headlights, his grin stretched even wider. In his most charming French accent, he patiently explained to this ignorant American that the Beaujolais Nouveau WINE had just been released! This was a day that all of Paris celebrated.
“Oh!” I exclaimed in a tone that I often used when pretending to remember someone I clearly didn’t. “Of course. How wonderful.”
My two traveling companions, Robert and David, nodded agreement.
Michael wasn’t fooled for a minute but he was too happy to be vexed by his American friends’ obvious lack of appreciation about the really important things in life. “Oui. D’accord. I am going to fetch our cases now. A’bientot.”
Grabbing his favorite slouchy hat, he dashed out the front door. After we heard the squeal of tires-in-a-hurry, Michael’s lovely German wife, Barbara, patiently explained that this was a national day of jubilation. Beaujolais Nouveau was a special wine, drunk young, not aged.
Big deal, I thought, American’s drink that all the time. It’s called Gallo Hearty Burgundy.
She continued with the air of a prophetess revealing a cosmic secret, “There is a finite number of bottles and we have a standing annual order for two cases.” She rubbed her hands together, then went into the kitchen to putter, or something. I can’t remember.
Not being a real wine lover at this point in my obviously deprived life, I couldn’t imagine what all the fuss could be. For an hour, David, Robert, and I busied ourselves with chit chat, waiting for Michael’s return with the treasured booty.
Finally, we heard the Citroen’s distinctive engine whoosh into the driveway.
A few seconds later, Micheal burst through the door with two cases of the precious bottles. He gently set them on the floor.
We all gathered round to stare and admire. But alas, they had to wait. We had an appointment with an editor and must hold onto delicious anticipation a little longer.
The meeting went well, but I suspected the editor also had a box of manna waiting for him at home. When the meeting ended, there were obligatory cheek air-kisses to be rushed through and formal meeting-ended-now-go-talk.
Finally, we piled into the big, grey Citroen and headed into traffic, where Michael used his finest former-Paris-cab-driver skills to rush us back home without killing or maiming the pedestrians who ran for their lives when he careened through the narrow backstreets and sidewalks of Paris.
At home, Michael tossed his keys onto a table at the side of the front door then stood for a moment staring at the white, cardboard cases of Nouveau. Like a surgeon performing a delicate operation, Michael sliced through the box. He lifted a shining bottle and caressed it with his long fingers.
Barbara had set the table with freshly baked baguettes of fragrant bread and a platter of rich, creamy cheeses.
With a practiced hand, Michael inserted the cork-puller prongs and, with a quick twist, poink it was free. “Ahhh, oui,” he purred as he took a first whiff from the bottle, then poured jewel-toned purple beauty into four sparkling glasses.
Lifting their glasses by the stem just above eye level, Michael and Barbara stared into their little pools of heaven, tilting the wine here and there.
Robert, David, and I did the same, although I wasn’t sure what I was looking for exactly.
“Voila! C’est bon!” he suddenly blurted out. I jumped and nearly spilled the sacred substance all over David, who was much more convincing as someone who knew what the Hell was going on.
Next we inserted our noses deep into the glasses and inhaled a long sniff. “ahhh,” we chorused. But could we drink yet? Mais Non. There was more swirling, then looking, then sniffing again. Something this beautiful couldn’t be just gulped; it had to be admired and appreciated first.
At last, ritual over, we sipped, slurping a little air onto our palate to release the wine’s bouquet. Suddenly, it exploded into my mouth (cue angel’s singing). My only thought was, Hot Damn! This is the nectar of the gods.
My eyes were opened! I saw the light, or at least tasted it. I finally understood the French love of wine. This was the most delectable ambrosia. My whole being wanted nothing more than to savor that moment. The fruity goodness slid down my throat like a beautiful woman slipping onto black satin sheets. It was seductive and entrancing.
That was the beginning of my love affair with really, really, really good food and wine, i.e. most things French.
The French know what is important in life. While we American’s plug away at galley-slave jobs, guiltily grabbing greasy burgers and fries for a shoveled-in lunch, the French indulge in two-hour lunch breaks while savoring fresh artisanal breads, lovingly prepared taste-delights, and wines that are the envy of the world, if not the entire galaxy.
Filling their lives with cheeses, butter, cream, pastries, meats, and wine, the French are a visibly healthy, trim, and vigorous people. Perhaps they have found the secret of a happy life— “Eat, drink and be merry, for we don’t believe in wasting life on stress and ambition. There is too much good food and drink to be had to worry about killing ourselves In the name of commerce.”
I know, my experience of the French is not scientifically based. Don’t waste your time trying to convince me with facts. It won’t work. My time in France, with friends left me with the impression that they knew something about what is truly important. Enjoying life and letting happiness rule over striving for wealth and the top of the corporate heap.
There’s a reason the French have a reputation for having the finest food and wine—they do.
I have travelled the world and have yet to taste anything close to the incredible food and wine I was privileged to treat my senses to in France.
Viva la France. Ma bell France. Au Revoir, mes amis. Bien manger. Etre bien. Goodbye, my friends. Eat well. Be Well.