Ach, what a dish

Some joker fixed me up real good lately with a little dish of cheese-flavored almonds. After I found I'd been had, I went to look at the can, and there it was - cheese-flavored almonds. So I will tell about the delicious beefsteak I had in Bad Godesberg and how I was so ashamed of my behavior. There is nothing wrong with almonds in any flavor the disoriented producer can think up, but the victim should be notified - he should be forewarned so he'll respond with respect to the product and dignity to himself. The same goes for beefsteak. . . .

I had been a week in Room No. 1 at a certain pension in Bad Godesberg. My window from the second floor (in Europe they call that the first floor) gave on a park and the room was pleasant. Below on the street level was the Maternus Weinhaus, a sort of gourmet restaurant. In my week I had cultivated a waiter who began another German lesson every time I sat down, and this was to be my last evening. I was tidying for supper and was attracted to the window by the tootle of some tooters. A German band composed of one hundred eighty-six oompahs and one glockenspiel was passing, and it was followed by umpteen thousand little boys carrying sugar beets on sticks. The beets had been carved and hollowed as we do with Halloween pumpkins, and each had a small candle that peeped out. The parade moved slowly, as the boys were handling their beets with care, lest they fall off the sticks and lest the candles expire. Numerous adults were walking beside, and I judged some were priests. The band had long since turned a corner and passed from hearing before the boys who straggled behind had reached me. When the street was quiet I put on my jacket and went below for supper.

My waiter was waiting, and I said, ''What was thatm!''

It had been the annual boys' march to the special St. Martin's evening mass, a traditional observance about which I had known nothing. My waiter explained slowly, as one might tell an idiot about algebra, and as I nodded he commended me for my fine progress with the language. When I had no more questions about St. Martin's Day, he said that since this was to be my last dinner he would like to spare me the need to order, and would serve me a very special Rhineland dish which the cook, who was in cahoots, had just about ready. I thanked him, and he brought me the Bonn newspaper on a stick to ease the meantime, and I sat up making believe I could read it.

When he brought my supper, I felt conspicuous because I saw at once that all the other guests knew that I was being treated to a special meal, and they were watching. When I looked about at them, each nodded in turn. Very friendly. My waiter came first with a small serving table and an alcohol brazier, which he lighted. Then came the huge oval platter with a pewter cover, which went over the flame. He whipped off the cover with a gesture of legerdemain, and there was , indeed, a brave spectacle.

There was the filletsteak, oozing juice and offering an aroma beyond all call of duty. Topped with mushrooms and onions in butter, it dominated. Subservient were the fried castle potatoes, the scrambled eggs with the delectable Pfifferlingem, sweet red cabbage, and small pancakes in the manner of Yorkshire pudding. A salad kept by itself to one side. My waiter held the cover aloft while I admired all this, and everybody in the restaurant nodded.

There is nothing in the theatrical art to excel a German waiter serving out of a chafing dish with tongs formed with fork and spoon. A piece of the steak was severed, the sauce, mushrooms, and onions applied, and the with-its were decorously arranged in circumference. It was a well-played sonata, and he set the plate before me with the reverence of an ancient votary making offering at the altar to Olympian Zeus. He stood back, awaiting praise, and the restaurant was silent as everybody watched.

I had scarcely to wield the knife - the meat was so tender. I put the morsel to my mouth. And the steak tasted just like a Nova Scotian salt-slacked codfish. It was improbable, it was unexpected, and it was terrible. There followed a deplorable anticlimax to the matter as I failed to show the expected delight. Nobody had told me anybody likes a steak marinated that way and larded and laced with anchovies. I spoiled the whole thing with an involuntary grimace.

And that is to say that I like my almonds when they taste like almonds.

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