I know I'm stating the obvious here when I say that French really is such a beautiful language, but it deserves repeating. Even a commonplace word like garbage has such a charming name, la poubelle. It's not just me who is with me on this one, there's even a restaurant out in LA with this name. Boy did I think I was très chic meeting up with friends at Café La Poubelle for cocktails and oysters. Now looking back, it makes me giggle.
It wasn't until recently that my affection for this dirty little word has changed.
On Tuesday night, Aurélien and I headed up to the 20th for dinner at his friend Victor's place. Victor is a rather special character that took me some time to warm up to. When I first met him, within the first few seconds he volunteered that he hates Americans. Just like that. Not being sure if he was serious, or was saying it purely for shock value, or had a degree of Asperger's syndrome, I looked back at him and just smiled. I mean really, what else could I do? It took me time to realize that his humor, if you even want to call it that, is just a little tilted. Other than that, I'd say he's fairly innocuous, so when he invited us to his home for dinner along with another couple, we happily accepted.
Arriving on a balmy yet cool October evening, we came armed with our "go-to" contribution of mini cakes picked up from Sébastien Gaudard's atelier on rue des Martyrs. Victor that night was uncharacteristically unoffensive and had actually put out a lovely offering for us. Starting off with a plate of charcuterie, which was then followed by a well-prepared magret de canards paired with sauteed mushrooms, and capped off with cornucopia of cheeses displayed on wooden cutting board.
Working on our mini cheese feasts, one of the guests somehow, managed to segue the table talk to Louis XIV. (Okay, this subject comes up a lot here. This is not the first time a dinner discussion starts off with a little harmless Louis the 14th action where it inevitably work its way to the French Revolution. Oh, this place.)
"Did you all really like dinner?" Victor interrupted, leading us back to the food, "Are you sure?" he pressed, now with almost a mischievous grin.
Exchanging satisfied nods and smiles, we reassured him that yes, dinner was excellent. "Good, I'm glad because it came from la poubelle," he said, popping a chunk of Saint-Nectaire in his mouth, "Dinner came from la poubelle!"
This was one of those moments where I was hoping I had a little too much wine, because what my fuzzy brain registered was that dinner, the dinner that we had just ate and enjoyed, came from the garbage. What does that even mean, I remember thinking. What garbage? Please be a new market in town called La Poubelle, please be a new market in town called La Poubelle, please be a new hipster market in town called La Poubelle, I preyed silently.
In contrast to my dire wishes, Victor proudly explained that his new grand discovery has been picking expired food out of the dumpster in the alley behind Monoprix by his office, seemingly disappointed that he hadn't thought of it sooner. Before reacting to our dumpster dived din-din, I couldn't help but entertain myself with visuals. In my head, I had him head first, fully inside the dumpster with his legs up in the air where all you see is food, cans, and fish bones being chucked out like a scene in Garfield. Once the playful imagery veered towards more pressing thoughts like how expired are we talking about, was the food packaged, was the cheese found in the dumpster, and worse, did he steal the dinner of someone less fortunate who actually relies on supermarket discards?
Victor of course, offered no explanation to these extremely valid concerns, leaving us no choice but to move on to dessert. The stupid designer desserts that Aurel and I brought, which now served as a blaring and obnoxious contrast to our hobo dinner.
Several days later, I'm pleased to report that I'm still alive and kicking, but as you can imagine the word la poubelle has since lost its charm and forever will remind me of the time when I ate dinner out of it. Thanks, Victor.