July 31, 2005

French Dis

One of my favourite Simpsons quotes is from the episode where Homer goes to work for a Bond villain:

Scorpio: By the way, Homer— what’s your least favourite country? Italy or France?
Homer: France.
Scorpio: Ha-ha! Nobody ever says Italy.

Here’s why.

On Monday morning, we took a ferry across the very narrow strait separating Sardinia from Corisca and visited the French town of Bonifacio for the day. Admittedly, it’s a very picturesque spot— it used to be a military outpost, so as you navigate the narrow channel between towering cliffs of cornstalk yellow, you can see the look-out posts, little pieces of architecture carved into the rock. A doorway here, a wall there, oddly hobbled together as if somebody was planning to turn the whole cliff into a building and got bored after the first few days. And then when you finally reach the port, Bonifacio sits high above you, a bundle of slender, winding streets, painted in pastel colours that flake like chapped lips. It’s impeccably European.

So that was all very nice. But then we decided to have lunch, which turned into the most tremendous debacle I can ever recall having at a restaurant.

After being ushered to our table and given menus, the waiter retreated so we could decide what to order . . . For about thirty seconds. When he returned, it was like that improv game where somebody acts out an occupation that is somehow tinted by their previous occupation— and our waiter was clearly an auctioneer at some point in his life, because he stood at the table constantly badgering us until we got flustered and ordered something.

The food came quickly, suspiciously quickly, considering the waiter’s enthusiasm for certain menu choices. The appetizers were a little bland, but not too bad, and certainly not bad enough to prepare me for my main course of stuffed calamari— which I rather suspect was, in fact, rancid fish guts wrapped in a used condom. It was utterly inedible, and I say that not for dramatic effect, but because I literally could not eat more than one bite without wanting to wretch. I actually spit my second bite out into my napkin. Nobody else liked theirs, either, though they were at least able to choke it down. The waiter looked slightly offended when he took my plate: “You don’t like?” he said in his comically broken English. “Not really, no,” I said. He nodded solemnly. “It’s fish,” he said, as if this explained everything.

Then came the cheese course, which I figured couldn’t go too wrong, because I mean, come on, it was France. But the ‘cheese course’ turned out to be two slices of cheddar arranged on a lettuce leaf, and topped with some indeterminate brown goo. I couldn’t stop myself laughing at the absurdity of it.

Now, by this point, everybody was pretty fed up, especially my stepmother, who had already told my dad to make sure he left no tip. When the bill came, she took out her credit card to pay, and...

“Sorry, I can no take cards today.”

This was when my stepmother started furiously shouting across the restaurant that the waiter wasn’t getting a tip, that the place was a disgrace, that they were all a couple of imbrogliones, and otherwise expressing her distaste in three different languages and at ever-increasing volumes.

But I think my favourite part, the part that capped off the experience as both quintessentially French and utterly appalling, was when the waiter shouted at us: “Madame, please take your money and go.” Ouch.

And that, in summary, is why nobody likes the French


At 31/7/05 16:49, Blogger Sean said...


At 1/8/05 04:08, Blogger Andrew said...

Well, you've a lot of Gaul saying that.


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