Eating My Way Round The World: Oysters in Paris
Today, we reach the final stage on my gastronomic trip around the world, looking back on some of the more memorable meals I’ve eaten during my travels. We started by spending Christmas in Jordan, then headed to Russia for a wedding in St Petersburg, before journeying nearly two and a half thousand kilometres south east to Nalchik in Kabardino Balkaria for supper in a cave. Next we took a short journey, travelling just over three hundred kilometres south east, to Tbilisi for a post-conference banquet. Then we journeyed nearly twenty thousand kilometres eastward to the small town of Greenville in North Carolina to eat snacks at the ballgame. And last month we travelled four and a half thousand kilometres south eastward to enjoy barbecued meats in Brazil.
On this final stage of our journey, we’re travelling over nine thousand kilometres north eastward from South America to the centre of Europe and what to many people is the gastronomic capital of the world, Paris. It’s a favourite city of ours and I have visited it many times with family and friends.
But on the occasion I am thinking about today, I was accompanied by several work colleagues from my client company in Brussels. We’d come to France to audit a couple of their raw material suppliers, one of whom was located in the outskirts of the capital. As the nominal leader of the team, I had chaired the closing meeting, where we fed back to the company our comments on their operations and any requests we had for changes in the way they dealt with our materials.
I am by no means a linguist. In fact, quite the opposite. Apart from learning how to order theatre tickets or restaurant meals, I normally relied on interpreters to speak for me on business trips. But for some reason, this time, I insisted on attempting to hold the meeting without an interpreter. I’d been taking French lessons for a while and felt I needed to show what I’d learned. I hate to think what our hosts thought of my terrible mangling of their language, but they were very polite and kept smiling throughout. The meeting took a lot longer than it would normally have, since everyone had to speak very slowly so I didn’t get lost, but we persevered and eventually it was over.
As we all heaved a collective sigh of relief, one of the team suggested we walk down by the Seine and take a look at Notre Dame before finding somewhere for supper. It was a warm evening and we had a pleasant walk – little realising that a few years later, the iconic view would be changed forever by fire. And when we arrived at the restaurant, the appetiser we were presented with was live oysters. I knew what to do in theory, but I’d never eaten them before. And normally, I’m quite cautious with new food. Still, I reckoned if I could successfully chair a meeting in Paris, in French, I could certainly master the art of eating oysters. And I did. And they were delicious.