Tag Archives: John Baxter

Excerpt from “The Most Beautiful Walk in the World” by John Baxter ~~Foie gras~~

My own introduction to foie gras was, in a way, my introduction to France, and to the rigor that sustained its apparent self-indulgence. On a visit to Paris in the 1970s, when Marie-Dominique was my girlfriend and not my wife, we lunched at one of the big brasseries near the Gare du Nord, where, she suggested I might enjoy foie gras as a starter.
Well, try anything once. And I didn’t want to appear gauche by admitting it was my first time.
The thin slices of liver, gleaming gold and beige with the slickness of fat, arrived, garnished with the gelée that gathers when it’s cooked. A metal dish contained slices of thin dry toast folded in a napkin.
“There’s no butter,” I said, scanning the table.
“Why do you need butter?”
“For the toast.”
“For foie gras, you don’t butter the toast.”
“Dry toast isn’t very inviting,” I protested. “Couldn’t we ask the waiter?”
Her vehemence was startling. I shut up and ate my toast dry – to find, of course, that she was perfectly right. Foie gras is as fatty as butter and to combine the two would have been absurd. Even worse, from the French point of view, it would have transgressed the spirit of comme il faut – the way things should be. In doing so, it would have also, which was worse, invited the derision of the waiting staff (“Can you believe, this plouc of a tourist wanted butter with foie gras!”) and thus made us look foolish. This had already happened on an earlier trip to Paris for the BBC. After a hard day of interviews, the producer and I returned to our hotel and, not realizing the French never drink cognac before dinner, ordered a reviving Courvoisier while we waited for Marie-Do, whom we were taking to dinner.
As she sat down, the waiter asked superciliously, “Mademoiselle also desires a digestif?”


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