Monday, May 04, 2009

Air France Menu, 1973

air france menuThis is where it all began, in a way. 

June 1973, flight from New York to Paris. My first trip to France.

I’ve saved this menu ever since.  The drawing is No. 4 extrait de la serie “Croquis de Voyages” by Florent Margaritis.

Not to be passéiste, but how wistful to think of the days when even flying in coach on Air France, passengers were fed well and given a menu (in French and English) of the in-flight meal.  Cloth napkins, real glasses and cutlery. Wine included with the meal, of course.

That dinner:

“Barquette of Shrimps à la Parisienne .

Breast of Chicken Cordon Bleu

Printanière of Small Vegetables

Salad of Season



Café de Colombie

For alcoholic drinks that are not served free of charge in Economy class, and other products on sale aboard, please kindly refer to the bar list which is at your disposition.”

Although I don’t have its menu, I also remember the August return flight vividly.  I had spent two months living with a family in France.  One of my favorite dishes that summer had been cervelle.  Although I had no idea what it was, I always consumed it with gusto.  So tender!  So delish!  It looked kind of like cauliflower, but the taste was delicate and exquisite. I never asked.

On the sad departing flight from France, my newly-found home, the Air France stewardess distributed the menus. Main course, as listed on the French left-hand side of the menu:  cervelle d’agneau.  “Oh, goody, cervelle, one last time!” I rejoiced. 

Then I looked at the English translation on the right-hand side of the menu. 

“Braised lambs’ brains.”

Ulp. I’d been eating that all summer?

It was at that precise moment that I decided never to judge a culinary book by its cover.  To enjoy and savor what appeals and delights, and not to worry about one’s culturally preconceived notions about food.

I’d still eat cervelle again, though I don’t think I have.  But it opened my eyes. 

I’m sure other folks have similar culinary-surprise tales to tell. I’d love to hear them. 

And then some time I’ll tell you about the saucisson-lookalike that we foisted on my daughter in Paris.



StyleSpy said...

Sweetbread ravioli. Part of the tasting menu at Le Christine, my favorite, most magical restaurant in Paris. I was there with a friend of Boris & Emilie, the owners, and Chef Boris was standing in front of me asking me what I liked to eat before he went into the kitchen to prepare our meal. I am a mostly-vegetarian ordinarily -- I eat seafood but not land animals. I started to explain this to Boris, and then I thought, "What am I doing?? What kind of an @$$hat tries to dictate terms to a chef who is about to prepare with his own hands the best of everything he has??" And so, I wisely shut my yap and told him, "Just bring me whatever you think is best, Boris." And he did. Most amazing meal of my life, including the sweetbread ravioli. They sorta tasted liked mushrooms... said...

Unfortunately I can read English so I'm not into eating brains. I don't think I have eaten anything exotic without knowing it because most menus (it seems).

Given the same situation - young and stupid - I probably would have gobbled them down too so as not to offend.

How cool that you still have that souvenir. Gives me hope that someday my treasure box will be worth looking at.

Starman said...

I'm trying desperately to remember, but I'm pretty sure the last time I flew Air France, they gave us a dinner menu. I don't think it was as fancy as yours. We did get the cloth napkin, the real dinnerware and real glasses.

Anne said...

Years ago, I was biking with my husband in the Loire Valley. By dinner time, we were starving and scanned the menu greedily. I only had my high school French to fall back on; he had none. So when I saw "cervelle d'agneau," I thought "great...lamb. I like lamb." But when it came, covering the plate and swimming in butter, there was no mistaking what it was. I ate it though. It taught me that knowing a little bit of a language is not necessrily a good thing.

Isabelle said...

When I was in primary school, they sometimes served us cervelle or langue de boeuf for lunch...

We dreaded those days, since they made us eat it, saying it was excellent for our health, whereas we were all almost throwing up of disgust!

They've stopped serving these dishes a long time ago now, and since the mad cow disease wave something like 13 years ago, I've never seen cervelle for sale anymore...

jonnifer said...

...flying in coach on Air France, passengers were fed well and given a menu (in French and English) of the in-flight meal. Cloth napkins, real glasses and cutlery. Wine included with the mealIt's still like this. An apero before the meal is also offered, with most people taking champagne. Once you get used to this kind of treatment there's no going back to the American air carriers.

YSLGuy said...

Oh my, I found that really funny. I remember the days of getting real meals on flights. Now it's just some snacks.

ParisBreakfasts said...

I LOVE the AF menu back then...
nostalgie beaucoup...
I am too chicken though I did once try rattlesnake..ahem

Sedulia said...

When I first moved to France there was cervelle baby food. That disappeared during the mad cow scare.

Polly-Vous Francais said...

When I was eating cervelle that summer in the 70s, I think we were often serving it to the little ones, so serving it as baby food makes sense. I made no connection whatsoever between cerveau and cervelle. Foolish moi!

Jonnifer & Starman-- I guess it's been a while since I flew AF Coach (I did luck out on some Business seats a while back!) I did a lot of trans-At travel in the past 3 years, just about all the airlines, so it all blends in the memory. Anyway, heartening to know that AF hasn't lost its touch.

Parisbreakfasts: RATTLESNAKE?

Okay, and the delicious saucisson-like slices that we got my daughter to eat in Paris at a dinner party were given the monniker "Bambi's privates."

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