Sunday, June 10, 2012

Le Canard en Conserve

The great gourmand Waverly Root surely had more and better meals than most of us.  He lived on, mostly in Europe, to a sleek and well-fed 79.  In The Food of France, he compares notes on French food with "the American naval wife I meet in Ville-franche-sur-Mer on the day after Thanksgiving."
I asked if her if she had eaten turkey. She said no, that her family had settle for duck. Duck, I remarked, was a noble dish, but I had been brought up to associate Thanksgiving with turkey and felt cheated if I did not get it. She agreed, but explained she had been so later in ordering that only duck remained among the canned goods of the ships stores. I think I was shocked at this.

"Canned duck?" I echoed. "You mean that you ate canned duck for Thanksgiving? Why, the market at Nice is full of fresh duck--and chicken, goose, guinea hen, turkey--anything you want!"

"Oh, none of us buy anything here!" she told me. "None of the Navy wives do. We wouldn't dare! Why even as it is, we all have dysentery!"

"What do you attribute it to?" I asked.

"You know," she confided, "it's the strangest thing! We just can't think of anything we've eaten that didn't come off the ship."
That would have been aabout 1958, I think it is fair to say that attitudes have softened somewhat since.

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