The Fable of the Lion and the Squirrel

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It is widely believed that Louis Pasteur said "Chance favors only the prepared mind;” that von Causewitz maintained that “We try first to discover what lies ahead of us;” and that chess players like the late, less-than-great, Bobby Fisher see not 1, 2 or 3 moves ahead but the whole game to come. The lion, actually the lioness, possesses incredible patience, but towards the next meal only; whereas the squirrel, vide “squirreling away,” thinks of beyond that. So this is all fine John, but what does it have to do with eating in Paris?: that you should make reservations (duhhh)?; that you should pace yourself between rich and lean dishes and blowout and good modest restos (hardly new news)?; or that you should know what the house offers on its menu aka carte so you’ll not be surprised by all offal or all veggie offerings? None of the above. No, let’s use today as our example: Weeks ago, I started making lists of where I’d eat this month (June), as I always do (it’s better, I’m told than collecting and piling newspapers up or washing ones hands until they’re raw.) As is my want (fear of culinary starvation, actually) I list possible “finds” in several categories: by finder (Simon, Rubin etc); by location (needing a local place for the eve before I exit town for any reason); and by days opened/closed. Then, of course, I called and reserved and as in the case this week, when I “had” to go to Spain for a few days, I ensured that my intended Sunday destination would be open and eager to serve me/us. Also, as is my compulsion (compulsions are acts, obsessions are thoughts; just a bit of academic pilpul to see if you’re still awake) I wrote the address and tele # down and arrived a bit early. Our destination was a little-known place – it’s these little-known places that are interesting to find huh, like the response of Peter Ustinov’s "Grand Prix of Gibraltar" Commendatore Fanfani aka Ferrari’s to the accusation that all his cars’ brakes failed 10 minutes from the finish – “Any fool can make a car stop, it takes a genius to make her go fast.” Any fool can buy a Michelin and go to a three star restaurant but to find the unfound little place – Ahhhh! So, anyway, I arrived pile and saw the tables and chairs outside this unprepossessing place in the ungodly 1st, near where I’d traded in the last of my “old” francs and (horrors) my “new” francs for Euros that our children and grandchildren found in old exercise clothes and the like. Enter me, confident, only one lady there, OK, “M. I have a reservation, my name is …..” (well what name I use is a state secret),” I have a reservation for two.” The guy looks at me like a garage mechanic preparing you for the $1000 repair news. “I am desolated M., but our kitchen it functioneth not. It’s a catastrophe…..” (yah for him, but whattamIgonnado?) I had no backup, I wasn’t going to eat at one of those fungible Les Halles/Bourse de Commerce brasseries, I had no frigging backup, no ideas, no thoughts. My buddy, a lady not known for promptness, was nowhere to be seen; so I say to the guy, “that’s terrible” (and think, you jerk, but I’m gunna look around.) In the back of my pigeon brain (don’t scoff, recall that BF Skinner of Skinner box fame, also trained pigeons to target bomb sights,) I remember the local geography. Up the road is Les Fines Gueules, a place that I and the Real Food Critic, loved a year ago, but that got trashed by the eGullet experts and dropped off the radar screen. Could it be open? Yesssss! But wait, the chalkboard is inside, the tables are propping open the doors, there’s an ominous mop and bucket in the doorway and the staff seems largely occupied with wiping grease off their hands. “Are you open today?” “Yes.” “May I make a reservation in 15-20 minutes?” “Of course.” And of course I also made a quick sweep of the nabe to see what else was open; pretty pathetic options I must say. So I walk back to Resto 1, sit outside until the poor catastrophe guy, remember him?, collects up the tables and chairs and puts them inside and I’m left with my briefcase on the green garbage container, waiting for my guest. She arrives, as always apologizing for the lateness, senses that I’m not usually found hugging a trash bin and says “closed?” I say “worse, kitchen not functioning. We’ve got the following choices……….” P.S. We had a great meal of heirloom tomatoes, mozzarella, artichokes and dried tomatoes, farm pintade and a pot of chocolate at Les Fines Gueules. But it was blind, frigging luck and a touch of a prepared mind. The moral of the fable: the lion/lioness plans on the next meal, the squirrel way ahead; find a happy medium. My obvious choice this week is: Les Fines Gueules 43, rue Croix des Petits Champs in the …
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