I anxiously checked my phone for the time, as my mom ripped off another piece of roll. We were stalling. I’d booked the reservation for four about a week earlier and now, my grandparents were driving through torrential rains to get there. (A perfectly clear day can be hazardous enough in my grandma’s mini-van. Rain and a new route conjure thoughts of thirty-five miles an hour on the highway, while other cars beep, pass, flash and curse. Not good.)
Meanwhile, a waiter hovered nervously. We needed to place our order by 1:30 to get it to the kitchen before they closed. We were dining at the Culinary Institute’s new, student-operated Bocuse restaurant (or the Beaucoup, as my grandma calls it), and the afternoon had suddenly balled itself up and crammed itself into the pit of my stomach – in other words…I felt anxious. We needed to somehow put in an order for my grandparents, so their three-hour (usually 1.5 hour), perilous journey north was not for naught (willing that they arrive safely in the first place, of course). Earlier, we had told them that the rain had picked-up, but they were not to be deterred.
We had delayed for twenty minutes, but it was 1:20 and we needed to take action soon. To pass the time, I was parading my awkwardness as usual, staring intently and then averting my eyes from the Maitre d’, desperately trying to remember his name before he approached me, so I could carry a conversation like the gracious human I’d always hoped to be. H-dawg had introduced me this man before (maybe two times), as these were all his co-workers, but for the life of me, I couldn’t come up with anything. Maybe a 2nd glass of rose would help…
I came up with a plan. We would order the 3-course prix fixe and just order entrees for my grandparents. This way, they’d have the whole, first course to get through and we could still put in an order for them.
Mom’s black truffle soup (classic Paul Bocuse circa 1975) and my duck-pistachio pate arrived within minutes. Normally, I’d applaud timeliness, but today, each minute moved like a second – far too fast. We ate as slow as you can eat deliciousness.
The first course – cleared. We were down to the wire and the clock was running out. Soon, we would be the two of us, seated at a 4-top, looking foolish with 4 entrees. The Maitre d’ (what the heck is his name?) already looked concerned enough about the two leftover amuse-bouche sitting upon the vacant placemats. Imagine two extra entrees without bodies! C’est horrible!
Mom left for the bathroom (perhaps another tactical move?) and as if magic, she returned with my grandparents. Voila!
I took the biggest, deepest breath when I saw them.
And my grandparents even liked their entrees (Chicken fricassee and pan-roasted tenderloin of beef), and service flowed as if we’d been the most normal customers of the afternoon. We ordered dessert together and everything seemed normal again.
Although we were the last table to leave the restaurant, all of us felt revitalized, full, and happy. No one else seemed aware of the FOH setting up for dinner and anxious to get on with their own lives.
To boot, I ran into one of my most favorite pastry chefs at the school. He remembered me and made me feel like I was important again. The rain had stopped and we all went home again, filled with an ease and tiredness that only a three-course French meal can provide.