In the last few days, I have realized that if there is a jar of honey in my grocery/kitchen transport bag and I leave the bag on the floor, the jar of honey will not only be upside down, but also not quite closed, so that a couple of days later when it occurs to me to move the bag, there will be a jarful of honey on my carpet (and consequently on the bottom of my feet, several pairs of shoes, and some laundry that was in the wrong place at the wrong time). This principle also holds true, as I discovered to my horror last night, for missing bottles of Advil, especially when they have rolled under the bed. In short, you have a ghastly mess.
Add to that a run-through of the Brahms Requiem in a freezing-cold church, raging hormones and severe muscle pain from an ill-advised (though still really entertaining) game of Frisbee on Friday afternoon (when it was still summer), and you get yesterday’s lunch.
I have a confession to make. I don’t really get the appeal of a Croque Monsieur.
Permit me to expand on that statement, because I know it seems perfectly clear–a ham and cheese sandwich with broiled cheese on top, what could be bad? The answer is, nothing really, but I have yet to have a good one in Paris. In fact, this is my first Croque Monsieur since arriving here in August.
I think part of my problem stems from summer 2010, when my summer program friends and I, sojourning in Paris before heading back to the States/Canada, met up at the Eiffel Tower for general carousing. We decided to go get drinks at what I believe now was the Champ de Mars brasserie, and a couple of my friends decided to order Croque Monsieur. It was 10 PM, but I thought, you know something, I haven’t had a single Croque Monsieur since arriving in France two months ago. And it was pathetic. I don’t know whether it was just late and the cooks were tired, or whether they just don’t make a good Croque Monsieur there, but it wasn’t even close to worth the 14 euro I paid for it. (Which is not to say that I didn’t eat the whole thing…and fries…)
The thing about the Croque is that it’s hard to know where it’s going to be really good. Whenever I see them in bakery cases, they look disgusting because the cheese is all cooled and congealed, and at most restaurants where they offer them, I’m skeptical of the quality. But yesterday after two hours of shivering and trying not to expend all of my vocal resources on rehearsal, I was starving and exhausted and in a humdinger of a bad mood. I very nearly went to McDonald’s, but every seat in the place was taken and there was an enormous crowd of people waiting to order. No, thanks. So I walked a bit longer until I found a place advertising an 8.90 lunch special–Croque Monsieur or quiche Lorraine, fries (this was really the selling point, as I was just dying for an order of frites) and salad, and a dessert. Not a bad value, and by that point I was really cranky, so I just went for it.
It wasn’t bad. But I will never understand why, with all of the incredible bread in this city, a Croque Monsieur is made on what has to be white bread in a bag.
Add to that grocery store ham and wilted greens in the salad, and you have a pretty underwhelming lunch. Though admittedly the fries were quite good.
It is also kind of a lonely endeavor to consume an enormous amount of calories by oneself at a table in a tourist-y restaurant on the Seine. There was an attractive guy at the bar who glanced my way every once in a while; looking back I suppose it’s possible that, as usual, the worse I feel about myself the better I look to other people, but in the moment it was like he was staring, pityingly, at the sad American tourist slowly and methodically demolishing a plateful of pure fat.
And then I had a crèpe Nutella for dessert (you didn’t forget about the dessert, did you?). The waiter was very sweet and let me pay for my meal and then take my crèpe à emporter from the crèpe stand they had set up outside the restaurant. He was from Tunisia, and he actually asked me if I was French–when I said I was American, he said, “Really?” Which was a nice little ego boost, since he didn’t seem like he was just flirting. He handed me my steaming-hot crèpe and said, “À la prochaine fois!” Thanks, man. There probably won’t be a next time, but I’ll always think of you fondly.
My system was still working on that meal six hours later, after two hours of sleeping like the dead, finishing an episode of Life of Mars (in which “Rocket Man” played over and over again, which means it’s also been stuck in my head for the last few days), and getting ready for the concert, which was slightly uncomfortable because the Croque Monsieur, fries, salad and crèpe Nutella were not in the mood to cede any precious thoracic space to my diaphragm and lungs. If I were any kind of artist you would have a cartoon of that image right about now. (And surprisingly enough, my solo went incredibly well last night; the director told me that my baroque style was “impeccable.” My Croque Monsieur was cheering.)
But I figure, at least it all makes for a good blog entry. To paraphrase what Gene Kelly’s landlady says in An American in Paris, when the wealthy older woman invites him over to her flat for drinks, whatever you have to do, at least it was done for art!