The Free Lunch Is Over

photo: la coupe d'or, r st honore

In the Rue Saint-Honoré, in the shade.

Replaced by 'Food for the Soul'

by Ric Erickson

Paris:- Monday, 4. June 2001:- Generally the weather forecasts are a bit vague, which is as it should be with an error factor of plus/minus 500 kilometres. I love temperature predictions along the lines of 'above' or 'below' 'normal for this time of year' too.

Last Wednesday it really seemed like summer, three weeks in advance of its 'official' beginning - which will be on Thursday, 21 June and no 'about' this at all except for the weather part.

You would think that after 25 years - 'about' - I would be used to these approximate expressions, with absolutely no mention of humidity and winds never mentioned unless they are near hurricane force.

You can understand that I was startled to actually see a thermometer. This was in the garden of the Palais Royal. It was a big one and it was in the shade. It readphoto: cafe, garden palais royal exactly 28.5 degrees Centigrade.

Whatever it was, the humidity was not bad, and there was little wind. Even though it is now in the past, I can say that last Wednesday was a summer day.

The garden of the Palais-Royal had lots of sun and shade last Wednesday.

It didn't last. By Thursday morning the wind had switched to noticeable strength and was flooding northern France from the north-northwest. By Sunday this had dumped the temperatures down to 'below' the seasonal average, down to 16 degrees which might be average for the beginning of March when it is still winter.

Today Paris is out of this pit, but in the week to come it is going back into it. I found two new France-Météo brochures during the week, and what I learned from them will be detailed a bit at the end of this week's 'Au Bistro' column.

Café Life

The Free Lunch

Most art shows used to 'open' on Thursdays, with their 'vernissages' beginning about 18:00. This was handy for having some art and cocktails - after the 'cinq-à-sept' if you were having one of these too - and before dinner. Running Café Metropole Club meetings before all this and producing the 'report' afterwards was sort of a multi-event marathon.

The result was I would normally skip the 'cinq-à-sept,' the art and cocktails and the dinner. The 'reports' are really important after all. But I felt I had a void in my life, filled only with a métro ride between Thursday's meeting and the concoction of the meeting's 'report.'

For the last short while, some wise person has reprogrammed the 'vernissages' to be on Wednesdays or on Fridays,photo: litho buffet, cordeliers sometimes at noon. This means, if I can get up after doing the Thursday night 'report,' I can start Friday with art and lunch and have the whole afternoon left for the 'cinq- à-sept.' Yes, I know the 'cinq-à-sept' is technically two hours long, but I'm really slow.

For late-comers, only crudités are left of this 'free lunch.'

Another thing - even under this new scheduling, I don't count on the lunch. Unlike many Parisians who have no breakfast at seven in the morning or at any other hour, I do have breakfast shortly before noon. If my neighbors are paying attention, they probably think I am having lunch.

On the theory that the future is unfathomable, I prefer to be tanked up before going out. Once out, usually I don't know where I'll be, or for how long, or when my next meal is scheduled. Living like this on an empty stomach would be stupid.

Along with the art show openings - the 'vernissages' - now being at convenient times, it looks as if the budget axe has fallen on the groceries for them. No more roasted cows, no more caviar, no Champagne and no more calorie-packed hand-designed little cakes.

This must be hard on the 'starving artists' and their arty friends. Just imagine - they've skipped lunch on purpose, and most likely the breakfast they never have - and here they are, nearly drooling, with nothing in sight but take-out sandwiches from Lina's and a big basket-like platter of crudités, mostly of raw cauliflower, I think.

And the cocktails! No more Champagne with orange juice - 'breakfast of Parisian champions!' - with domain-name Bordeaux wines, in at least two colors. Yes, with the crudités, the wine is Bordeaux 'ordinaire,' without a year-date. On the cartons, 'Superior' has been rubber-stamped out.

No more plastic Champagne flutes. Today if you want a glass you have to bring your own, or use the nameless generic plastic cups - like the plain ones without handles that are no longer used in the café-automats. The very type used for the 'Oasis'-type drinks served in the city's kindergarten canteens.

Despite these setbacks, the starving art crowd falls on this meager fare and gobbles it all up and drinks it all down in the bat of an eye. People who have come out without breakfast are too weak to grumble.

Art is food for the soul, so the city's Culture budget has been rearranged to provide more 'soul' food, and fewer freebies for the starving art community. As part of this 'community' myself, I hope the taxpayers can understand the hardships this is going to create.

But I don't really care because I've already had a real breakfast.

Metropole Offers Its Photos

The offer of Metropole's large-format photos limps ahead this week with a new photo / image page. I didn't take as many photos as usual, but did find two I liked.

Each week one or two 'best' photos - or a cartoon - will be presented on their own page. On this page you will find that large versions of these photos are for sale. If you see another one you like in the issue, ask for it instead.


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logo, metropole sml midi logo No matter how good it tastes,
there is no such thing
as a free lunch.
Waldo Bini