Sunday, November 12, 2017

The Lettuce/Cabbage Incident

Last night, I was at a birthday party at the Bouchon in Yountville, and I told me table companions I would blog about it, so here I am.

First off--the food is excellent. Given there are so many men in my family, I have ended up at quite a few steakhouses in my time, but this steak was excellent--the perfect crunchy crust and tender meat. The default was medium-rare, and lately I have been favoring medium, but I went with the waiter's suggestion, and he was correct. There was a Bearnaise and a garlicky ailoi on the side, and maybe you are supposed to eat those with the steaks, but I enjoyed using those sauces for the chips (fries, for you Americans). Oddly, they too the horseradish off the table, but that might have worked nicely as well.

But what struck me was, behind our table, there was a painting of various objects, with the French terms for the object. Some of them had to do with food, like an egg or a whisk. But not all of them did--there was a boxing glove. And in the bottom left corner, a mysterious green vegetable.

It looked a little bit like a cabbage--in fact, my first thought was that it was a cabbage. But it was also blooming, the leaves unfurling, in the way a lettuce would. Cabbages don't really bloom, after all. So I took a poll of the table, and the reviews were mixed. Some people thought cabbage. Some thought lettuce. So I googled the term le Ribou, as it said under the mysterious vegetable, only the word didn't exist.

And while I don't know much about the French language, I did know that the word for egg was ouef. But the word under the egg was something else. So I called the waiter over to ask about the painting. It turns out, it was surrealism (because of course it is surreal), and the painter wanted to send a message about life. Life sometimes makes sense until you really look at it, much like the painting. It made sense until you started questioning why a boxing glove is on a painting about food, or your realized that the words matched up. You have to look and then you will find the absurd.

To be honest, though, mostly I thought about how if the painter was making their point in a language spoken by a minority--like Spanish or Mandarin--wouldn't that be seen as racist? But you can make the point in French. Hmm.

Anyway, the waiter decided the vegetable was a cabbage, but that is still open for debate if you ever go to the Bouchon. Also, the restaurant had these cute little one ounce bottles of Tabasco sauce, and they gave me a few when I asked if I could keep one that was already opened because it was so tiny and adorable.


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