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.
“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.