Interdum stultus opportuna loquitur...

Friday, February 17, 2006

ParisRant: Propaganda, Cheese and Liberté

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If we will, we can still save ourselves the cost of empire building. We have only to square off against this propaganda, and to supplement rationality with a determination that, come what may, we will not lend ourselves, as individuals, to this new outrage against human dignity. We will not cooperate. We will urge non-cooperation upon our neighbors. We will resist, by counterpropaganda, every attempt to lead us to madness. Above all, when the time comes, we will refuse to fight, choosing the self-respect of the prison camp to the ignominy of the battlefield. It is far nobler to clean a latrine than to kill a man for profit.

That was written in 1947, by Frank Chodorov, in an article entitled "A Byzantine Empire of the West?" in which Chodorov forecast the waning of the British Empire and the continued rise of the American Empire.

I strongly recommend that you read the entire article, which is redolent with scorn for anybody who believed that the supposed argument of the US (that its actions were being taken to defend the world against the threat of socialism).

That same scorn should now be directed with as much venom as we can muster, against those who attempt to deploy the canard of a "War Against Terror" as cover for their attempt to continue to extract resources by force (military action or the threat thereof) and by fraud (the payment for said resources in a depreciating currency, the creation of which is unconstrained by any stock of real assets).

In fact as another writer once said, the fraud itself is impossible without the threat of force - only the dominant military power can attempt to 'clip' the coinage it uses in its trade with the rest of the world.

Which brings me to the French (again).

I like it here, in spite of what folks might have thought after my little diatribe against the idiotic grammar of the language.

But it should not be expected that one should like evrything about a place, even though overall the place gets top marks. As far as I can discern, there is nothing on this or any other planet which yields unalloyed joy - every silver lining has a cloud, as it were.

Frankly though, there are some things that a genuinely civilised polity requires, and that ought to be generated endogenously by the economy of any society that wants to claim to be culturally advanced.

"What are these necessaries?" I hear you ask... "What is it that makes a truly "Great Society"?

Bacon. Toast. Custard (not that thin soupy 'creme anglais', but a proper thick stuff that you can stand a spoon up in). Pepperoni. A decent pizza. A good old-fashioned meat pie. Good hard tasty cheese (like the stuff they produce in Cobram).

The French produce almost 400 different cheeses, and many of them taste terrific - but none of them (and I swear to you, I have seen at least 250 of the 300-odd) is remotely like Cracker Barrel Special Reserve. You know the one - the one in the black packet (or if you want it even bitey-er, the Cobram one in the black wax 'Toblerone' shape).

How can this be? You can get magnificent bufalo mozarella at the local supermarketm but the closest that the French cheesemaker can get to a decent Tasty is a feeble Emmenthal. You can get Reggiano as cheap as chips, but you can't get Pecorino for blood nor money.

How can this be?

Well, the cheese issue is easy to explain. It all comes back to the defining characteristic of a great civiliation... Toast.

If a country has no tradition of Toast, it will have no tradition of Toasted Ham and Cheese sangers (with optional onions and tomato). It will have no tradition of Bacon and Eggs on... you guessed it... Toast.

It is for this reason that the Frog version of a toasted ham and cheese sanger (the 'croque monsieur') is a feeble thing that includes - of all things - a bloody dollop of bechamel sauce in its innards. The cheese on a croque monsieur is plentiful, but it's bloody Emmenthal.

And the Frog version of bacon and eggs ('oeufs en plat bacon') is a heartbreaker... the 'bacon' is like the speudo-bacon they used to put on McDonald's breakfast muffins, and there is no... wait for it... TOAST.

No toast! All you get is a little side dish with some cut-up baguette! It is as if they are still trying to 'get one back' for Agincourt!

Imagine how happy I would be if I could sit in 'le Ronsard' (a little cafe at the foot of Sacre Coeur cathedral) and have a breakfast of bacon and eggs on toast.

The other problems (pepperoni and pizza) are related. After searching high and low, I have failed utterly to find a decent pepperoni. The French 'saussicon sec' has absolute no spice about it, and I like a decent hot pepperoni (ooo-er). Without good pepperoni and good cheese, any attempt to make a pizza is doomed.

But let me tell you this: when you can sit in a restaurant ('le Procope') which has occupied the same premises in Rue de l'Ancienne Comedie in the 6th arondissement since 1686, you will forgive the lack of Toast.

Franklin and Jefferson were regular visitors in the 1700s, and early drafts of both the US and French Constitutions were drafted within the very place. they have one of Napoleon's hats i nthe entry foyer. And the place is genuinely magnificent. We ate there recently with one of the Lovely's senior colleagues (the chap who is also a member of the "Legion d'Honneur" - the Frog equivalent of a Knight of the Realm). And the amazing thing is. it's not expensive and you don't have to book months in advance.

Why not? Simple, silly, All the 'restaurant wankers' go elsewhere - to places run by 'celebrity chefs' - and the 'restaurant wanker goes there solely because they think other people like them will be there. Think 'Rockpool' or 'Tetsuyu' in Sydney (both SHIT, Sydneysiders - sorry), or 'Flower Drum' or 'Circa' in Melbourne (although admittedly at Flower Drum you actually get a decent feed).

Le Procope doesn't give a fuck if Gerard Depardieu eats there or not (he doesn't) - they do what they have done for three centuries... a good meal at a decent price. For example the set-menu 'Menu des Philosophes' is three tasty courses with wine for €30, and even if you go a la carte you won't get stung for more than about €60 a head. I had (these were from the Menu des Philosophes): a duck terrine, roast duck, and the best creme brulee I have ever tasted in my life, and we had a nice Rose and a couple of bots of Santa Cristi chianti.

And as I discovered when I was telling Mum about it, they have a website, so you can take a look at the dining rooms at this link although there is no photo of the Salon Benjamin Franklin which was the room we ate in.