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I woke up and, like any other food-crazed person, asked myself, “What am I having for dinner?” While exercising (I do it to eat) I had a revelation: I needed pho (aka feu). But it was Monday, and maybe I’d better just come home after lunch, head to the Monoprix and get a terrine slice and be done with it. But where would I get the bread? Everything on the street was shuttered for Monday or school holidays. And I really wanted pho.
I could cook pasta—my fellow screenwriter Ben says pasta is the film student’s best friend; I have some in the cupboard. But, I really wanted pho. I had a very nice, non-destination-place lunch at Les Enfants de Paris during which I had nicely stewed tomatoes, so I thought, even in February, with some butter, extra-virgin olive oil and garlic, they’d do with pasta. But I wanted pho.
Now, the backstory of why? Ever since I served in Viet Nam keeping our enemies at bay—let see, who were they exactly? The North Viet Namese? Humm, they’re our friends. The ChiComs? Humm, they own us now. The RuskieComs? They pay our taxes.
Well, there was some reason I was there. Maybe to have genuine pho. And I did, down by the River in then-Sai Gon. It was delicious.
And I’ve been trying to replicate it ever since, largely unsuccessfully, for reasons I cannot explain (dear reader in San Francisco or Alexandria, please do not write saying I must try your place).
So I exited Les Enfants, wended my way past some of the grungiest Paris-Seattle-type tattooed high/drunk losers with nasty dogs and started to cross the street at the Oberkampf Metro stop when smack-gob in my eyes was a sign—PHO—to take out or eat there. There is a God, and she’s Viet Namese.
I entered the Heng Heng Rapide BO-Bun Pho joint; a very nice man asked what I wanted: Pho. Easy money. He did some legerdemain and as I was standing by, I asked: “Viet Namese?” “No, Cambodian, just next to Viet Nam.” I didn’t tell him the guy in the bed next to mine on the air-evac flight blew away over 30 of his father’s friends—I thought that might be uncouth.
He gave me specific instructions on how to heat and reassemble the three containers he gave me. Of course, an hour later I forgot, just like I forgot the Montparnasse 25 cheese guys’ instructions on which order one ate the mountain, goat and cow cheeses he carefully sliced out on three plates two seconds after the injunction.
At dinner time I opened the liquid, heated it and added the offal and noodle ingredients, put the lemon, mint leaves and sprouts on a plate aside, and, ohh… “come on John, stop teasing. Was it the pho of your dreams?” I’ll cut to the chase. “No.”
But it was OK.
For the the pho of my dreams I’ve gotta go back to V.N. with my kids, who want to see the country through my eyes. Not fun, but something.
Where I was coming from:
Les Enfants de Paris
116, rue Amelot in the 11th (Metro: Oberkampf, Filles du Calvaire)
Menus: 2 courses for 10.50, 3 for 15.50 E.
©by John Talbott 2010
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