"There is a hair in my pasta.” I said this calmly, with as much dignity as I could muster. Across the table from me, Karen paused in mid-chew and put down her knife and fork. Her eyes quickly scanned the surrounding diners for any 1)undue attention. We were in 2)Grenoble, and people understood English very well. She carefully moved the silver pot of flowering lavender out of the way, leaned over the white-3)draped table and inspected the black, curly hair, sitting on a freshly made goat cheese and 4)spinach 5)ravioli like an innocent bit of extra 6)garnish.
Karen is English and will suffer almost any humiliation quietly rather than 7)make a fuss. Raising a hand to get the waiter’s attention, I said, “I’m not going to eat it.”
“You could just put it to one side,” Karen suggested. The fingers of her right hand smoothed her napkin, and 8)ironed it against the table. “I mean, what are you hoping to achieve?” English or not, in this instance she wasn’t merely adhering to a genetic and cultural 9)disposition for confrontation avoidance. Having lived in Grenoble for years, she had reason to question what greater good complaining would serve. In England or the United States, apologies would have been forthcoming, as would a fresh portion or a different dish at no charge. But this was France and we both knew better.
Only three days earlier, on a cobblestone square in Aix-en-Provence, I had been served a salad with 10)Lollo Rosso lettuce, 11)artichoke hearts, pine nuts, and dirt. Not a modest little dusting of dirt, crunching between my teeth, revealing a somewhat superficial 12)rinsing, but a 13)hearty clump of good, French soil. I could have grown 14)cress in it. I showed the waitress, a 15)wiry, 16)thirtyish woman, expecting a 17)modicum of 18)remorse and a new salad. Instead I got an 19)overbearing smile and “C’est un peu de terre...” It’s a bit of dirt. What’s all the 20)commotion about? I insisted that the dirt should not be in my salad, so, with a look suggesting that to her I was the human equivalent of a 21)Chihuahua having a 22)yapping 23)fit, she tore off the 24)ruffled lettuce leaf where the clump resided and threw it on the ground in front of my sandaled feet. “25)Voila!” Then she walked off to serve less demanding customers.
仅仅在三天前,在法国普罗旺斯地区艾克斯的一个鹅卵石广场上,侍者给我端来了一碟红边莴苣、洋蓟心、松仁伴着泥土的沙拉。还不是一丁点的泥土,那泥土在我的齿间嘎扎嘎扎响,显然,有人洗菜只是随便冲洗了一下,没洗干净,那可是一大块“肥沃的”泥土——法国的泥土。我都能在那泥土里种水田芥了。我把它拿给一个三十岁上下高瘦结实的女侍者看,期望以此换来她的一点点懊悔以及一盘新的沙拉。可结果换来的却是一个傲慢的笑容,以及一句:“C’est un peu de terre...”——不过是一点泥土罢了。这番激烈争辩是为什么呀?我强调这泥土不该出现在我的沙拉里。于是,带着某种透露出对她来说我的争辩犹如疯狗乱叫那神情,她扯下那片有褶皱且沾有泥土的莴苣叶,把它扔在地上,就扔在我的凉鞋前面。“瞧!”接着,她走开,去服侍那些没那么多要求的顾客。
At 26)eating establishments I generally prefer my salads without 27)compost, and any type of hair in my food will dramatically reduce the chances of repeat business from me. But I appreciate the lack of humility displayed by the average French service provider. Though occasionally 28)counterproductive in the business sense of the word, it is at the very least honest. It is what France is all about: a sense of equality and personal pride, a refusal to 29)ingratiate. Compare this with the American 30)till operator squeezing out a “Thank you for shopping at Wal-Mart,” when really, he just wants you to pick up your change and exit his personal planet.
American service is second to none when it comes to free water 31)expediently delivered at the table, Disney smiles, and verbal 32)smoothies, but the pleasantness is often so forced and artificial that it leaves you feeling more resented than by the 33)irreverent French. Service is considered an unnecessary extra in France—a luxury reserved for the 34)staggeringly rich and powerful. Ordinary people should not expect to be 35)pampered; life is not for the 36)cosseted or the easily 37)deterred. Casual disdain is part of the experience; an enthusiastically served meal belongs in Greece or Italy, not France. The 38)liquid mix of charm and superiority that characterizes the hotel receptionist, the boutique owner, the 39)greengrocer, is a language of its own: of sighs, 40)pregnant pauses, slow 41)feline gestures, and shamelessly 42)verbose eyebrows.
Familiar with this language, I was not expecting heartfelt apologies or cheeks burning with 43)chagrin at my presentation of the hair, even in this relatively expensive restaurant where Karen and I were dining. Setting myself what I considered a realistic goal, I was aiming for a replacement portion, 44)sans hairs. After many unsuccessful attempts at making eye contact, I managed to attract the attention of our 45)whiskered head waiter who floated over and asked with a half-smile what he could do for me. I pointed out the curled-up evidence. He sighed and looked at me like he would love to help and was saddened by the fact that he could not, as if I had just asked him to donate a 46)kidney. He shook his 47)slick, dark head slowly and said, “It is not mine...”