A meal consists not only of the food that is consumed, but of many other factors. These factors include the setting of the meal, the time of day, and most importantly, who I am sharing a meal with. I have had great meals with horrible food, as well as unpleasant meals with good food. My ideal meal would bring together the best of all the factors that make up a meal.
There is a small family-owned restaurant only a few blocks from Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris. Large windows in the restaurant let in natural light and allow patrons to view the lights of the city and the timeless flow of the River Seine. Regulars know that to get into the restaurant one must go through the alley. At night the only light inside is from candles on each table, a few lanterns in the upper corners of the room, and the city itself. It is late summer so the windows are open, as is the back door. This allows a draft to bring in the cool night breeze.
We gather in the restaurant at dusk. The amazing lights of Paris slowly come on, outshining immortal stars. On nights like this we stay well into the evening. Together we enjoy the company, the wine, the food, and the moment.
Joan of Arc, sainthood and all, is the most gracious and interesting hostess. Her esteemed guests include Benjamin Franklin. Franklin was the toast of Paris in his day, as statues found around the city attest. He is of fine wit and boundless charm. Another guest and conversationalist is the ancient Greek historian Thucydides. To add some color and spirit to the guest list, General George Patton attends. The last two invitees are I and my true love. She, the lover of history, the arts, and my soul holds my hand as we enter the restaurant. Her beauty and grace outshines the view from the windows. At a table next to the window gentlemen allow the ladies to sit first. Then the men, too, take their place at the table.
Tongues are gently loosened by glasses of an expensive, yet tasteful, vintage of red wine. History is the subject of the evening. Theories flutter above the table along with heroic tales and the occasional boast. The first course of the meal is delivered to us. It is a tossed salad with fresh garden vegetables. I avoid asking for ranch dressing and settle for sweet vinaigrette. A small salmon fillet replaces the now empty salad plates. After the salmon comes tomato bisque, then a sherbet to clear the palate. The conversation continues through each course. My love kisses my cheek. The main course arrives along with a fresh bottle of wine. The aroma from the roasted pork is divine. The pork is accompanied by fettuccine noodles smothered in a rich buttery alfredo sauce that could only be perfected in France. We take our time savoring the main course. My love notices and comments about the hint of saffron in the sauce. This brings a smile to Joan’s face. To finish the meal a torte is brought to each of us. Sweet cherry sauce covers each torte.
After the dishes are cleared Patton leads us in a toast to our hostess and the savior of France, Joan of Arc. Her face blushes as we sip our wine. Our conversations again turn to history. My love rests her head on my shoulder, long red hair spilling forward across my shirt. She lifts her head every time she adds her knowledge, wisdom, insight, and humor to the conversation.
Sadly, time catches up with us and we must end our meal. We say our goodbyes, hug, shake hands, and praise our hostess. One by one we leave the little restaurant by the Seine with the memories and the knowledge we shared an ideal meal. Walking home hand in hand, my love and I share a sweet kiss under a full moon.