Beaton: Barbarians at the ate
The Aspen Eat
Don’t ever watch a European eat.
I’m no Europhobe. I like Europeans and their food, wine, cities, money, women, towns, museums, money, architecture, castles and women. I especially like their money and women a la carte, as when they bring them to Aspen and leave them here.
But I discovered in Europe recently that these civilized people eat like barbarians. Let’s just call them barbarians at the ate.
It goes something like this:
“Poulet, si’l vous plait,” requests a restaurant patron. And in due course, chicken appears.
“Bon appetit,” advises the chicken-bringer to the chicken-eater.
That didn’t need to be said. The chicken-eater already has a very bon appetit, believe me. He nibbles, tastes, savors, licks, squeezes, admires and fondles the chicken. He inserts it into his mouth to scrape and scour it with his tongue, teeth, lips, sinuses, esophagus, tonsils and the upper part of his stomach. Then he pulls the remaining chicken bone from his mouth.
He does this over and over, till the bone is sucked free of meat, tissue, grease, blood, tendons, ligaments, juice, color, skin, feathers and marrow. Even the chicken smell has been sucked off. The remaining bleached white bone winds up cleaner than the unused silverware.
European women would never abandon Europe for Aspen if only their European women breasts received half the amour of European chicken breasts.
Approximately 40 percent of the chicken winds up smeared on the fingers of the chicken-eater. Not to worry. Their mouths administer the same treatment to their fingers as they do to the chicken, except that most of the finger meat is left in vivo.
Europeans may have crooked yellow teeth, but their fingers are beautiful.
Finger-licking is an art form, and the highest art is the “smack” as they pull their fingers out of their mouths against a negative pressure equivalent to a couple of hundred Miele vacuum cleaners.
The French might not have much of an army, but they could massacre Colonel Sanders faster than you can say “finger-lickin’ good.”
The reason for all their weird monkey languages is that they usually have chicken parts — and their own fingers past the second knuckle — buried inside their mouths. So when they say, “Very tasty chicken!” it comes out something like, “Wharwat wasty wicken!”
Or variations of that, depending on the part of the continent and the part of the chicken.
Even fancy restaurants have only paper napkins. They know that everything the chicken gets smeared upon will be the victim of a culinary conquest, including the napkins. Let them eat the inexpensive paper kind. (And cake!)
A truce is occasionally declared in all this ritualistic chicken/finger/fist/napkin sucking and eating war, for a well-deserved bathroom break. Except in Europe they call the place the “water closet” or “servicios” or “WC” or “banos” or a million other names du jour but never “bathroom.” That’s because it’s so goddamn filthy that you don’t even want to unzip your pants for fear of catching three or four STDs, much less take a bath there.
Madre de Jesus, you don’t even want to wash your hands because no matter where those hands were an instant ago, it’s a place that’s a lot cleaner than the handle of that faucet. You’d turn the faucet with your elbow, but who wants elbow herpes? Lordy, it’s so filthy that you want to hold your breath, except that after all that greasy chicken you have to take a deep breath because — oh, never mind.
Speaking of baths, the real reason they don’t call it a bathroom might be because they just don’t take them. Baths, I mean. In France, in order to avoid baths and even showers, they’ve invented something called a “bidet.” Think of it as “spot cleaning.” In fact, “bidet” is probably French for “spot cleaner.”
You might think that if one spot’s dirty, they all are. Au contraire, say the French.
I wonder if they do their laundry the same way. Maybe they wash only the dirty pits of their shirts, bottoms of their socks and crotches of their panties (assuming for a moment that a French woman owns panties).
I can hear her. “Sacre bleu, eet’s time to wash mee panty crotches! I’ll toss in some of Pierre’s shirt pits and sock bottoms since I’m doing a load anyway.”
Actually, I think maybe they do own panties, but there’s nothing to wash because they’re the crotchless kind. Which always struck me as a sartorial oxymoron, sort of like fingerless gloves. Maybe in the case of the gloves, the fingers were eaten off.
As your head will be, if you get between a European and his chicken.
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