Thursday, May 05, 2005

A Parable for Election Day

One autumn the spokesmen of three Powers, upon whose decision hung the destiny of the world ‑ so precariously is our planet balanced ‑ met at a town on the Riviera, and there they were to drink Madeira, dine, and talk for a whole week. Their names I have forgotten. From Paris were dispatched, by gracious assent of the Faisan d'Or, Messrs. Pless and François to look after all but the Treaty itself.

All went smoothly until the close of the second day. François roasted for the dinner half a young antelope. Had it been fed on fern shoots, grass, and reeds, it would have been perfect; but that dry summer in the Tyrol it had fed overlong on apple twigs and herbage that was papery rather than lush. François was distressed.

The solution was to serve it not with salt alone but with an Espagnol sauce. In a great saucepan he fried meat and bones of beef, veal and ham, with onions, celery, carrots, turnips, fines herbes, cloves, allspice, cannel, and pepper. Then he put in the thick roux, then poultry carcasses and tomatoes. It is a tedious sauce to make – a long task and involved. After two hours he put in sherry.

François tasted it. What did it lack? He had a palate for flavors as some have an ear for music. Aha, coriander!

Since all was prepared except the dessert – a soufflé of pineapple to be ovened at the last minute – he went out, mounted upon a Foreign Minister's bicycle, and pedalled into the cool air in quest of the herb which wearied the Israelites so extremely in their manna that they sighed for the fleshpots and fish of Egypt. The shops had none of it. He rode on, sniffing past many little gardens and calling out to all the old ladies sitting on their doorsteps. He bought some at last, a handful, and stuck it in his hat and pedalled home.

He went straight to that saucepan in the kitchen, and found it empty! His senses almost left him. He braced himself and walked into the dining hall.

“François,” a minister plenipotentiary called out, “this is a soup finer, much finer, than any we ever tasted before.”

François drew himself up with such dignity that he seemed two feet higher than his four feet nine. His voice shook with emotion.

“That, Messieurs, was an Espagnol sauce – still incomplete.”

He bowed himself out, pedalled to the station, and caught the train for Paris.

“Long before anyone else,” said Pless, “François knew that conference was doomed to failure.”


Idwal Jones, High Bonnet, pp120-1


Blogger Marc Millon said...

Espagnol sauce indeed, John, no doubt served over the pig's ear that this 2005 election has become. And, as you've noted elsewhere, what are we to make of The Guardian's straw poll 'Shiraz drinkers'? Why, for goodness sake, Shiraz and what does this tell us about a) the electorate, b) Guardian readers? Like the redoubtable François, I feel tempted to jump on my bicycle and pedal away from it all.

May 05, 2005 12:33 pm  
Blogger John Whiting said...

If, on the other hand, you read Simon Schama’s comparison with the American presidential election in today’s Guardian2, you might choose to leave your bike parked exactly where it is:,3604,1476560,00.html

May 05, 2005 1:15 pm  
Blogger Marc Millon said...

Schama's wry observation is indeed apt: "[Michael] Howard's vision of a briskly spring-cleaned Albion was meant as a rousing clarion call but it had all the resonance of a tinkling bicycle bell in a country lane."

'On yer bike' indeed...

May 05, 2005 1:32 pm  

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