Wednesday, February 20, 2008


Les flageolets, les flageolets,
Pour vôtre coeur, la bonne santé.

- Old French Proverb

At 3:15 yesterday afternoon, I was perched in my dentist’s chair, making the acquaintance of Mr. Permanent Crown Restoration. Less than five hours later, I was having dinner with Elder Daughter, almost within shouting distance of the White House. Modern Aerial Bus Technology never ceases to amaze me.

I’m here in the general vicinity of the Nation’s Capital to take a training course at the local Big Outpost of the Great Corporate Salt Mine. It’s my first visit to this particular facility, a place once as inaccessible to me as the surface of the Moon. That’s because this used to be the headquarters of one of the Great Corporate Salt Mine’s competitors, and contact with competitors in our industry is permissible only under tightly controlled and unusual circumstances. But then came the Merger, and the formerly untouchable became, well, touchable.

It’s a little like having a family living down the street from you and being told you can’t play with their kids or go into their house. And then, one day, your Dad announces that he is marrying the Widow Woman who lives in that house, and that the kids you weren’t allowed to play with are now your step-siblings. Now you get to check out all the stuff in their basement.

This place, unlike our Sweat City headquarters, is packed with fine art and museum-quality Industry Artifacts. And it’s huge. I’d call it “Battlestar Galactica,” except that name has already been snarfed up to describe another competitor’s headquarters.

But a conference room is a conference room, no matter where you are...and a two-day training session will test your sitzfleisch. The good thing is, I’ve checked my eyelids for pinholes several times, and I haven’t found a single one yet.

Last night, I met Elder Daughter at her D.C. digs, just a few blocks from DuPont Circle. We walked up into Adams Morgan to snag dinner at one of the local French eateries, the cold wind sharpening our appetites all the way.

Elder Daughter recommended the salade Niçoise, so we split one. You can’t go wrong with a salad that includes lettuce, tomatoes, sliced boiled potato, hard-cooked eggs, tuna, tiny Niçoise olives, and the odd anchovy fillet.

I challenged E.D.’s adventurous spirit by recommending that she order the ris de veau - calf sweetbreads. Sweetbreads were a favorite of the Momma d’Elisson, but I resisted ever trying them until they landed on my plate at Chez Panisse, the Berserkely-based temple of American food-worship, twenty-four years ago. They were delicious...and last night, Elder Daughter tasted them for the first time and enjoyed the hell out of them, despite their being Mysterious Organ Meats. (Thymus and/or pancreas, in case you were wondering.)

Meanwhile, I had the cassoulet, the quintessential French comfort food. Simply put, cassoulet is the Gallic equivalent of cholent, the fragrant (and fragrance-inducing) Jewish sabbath bean dish. To describe a cassoulet as a Bean and Meat Stew - which it is - is to do the dish an injustice. This version was rich with sausage, lamb, duck confit, and flavorful, long-simmered flageolet beans. I will leave the question of whether it was wise to eat a plateload of cassoulet before spending a long day in a confined space as an exercise for the reader. Discuss amongst yourselves.

On the way back from the restaurant, E.D. cracked me up with her spot-on Eartha Kitt impression. I’d better start developing some resistance to her sense of humor (which strangely resembles mine), or I’ll be pissing my pants all through Japan in a couple of months.

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