The Barbarian Invasions [Flash Fiction]

I loved L’Acajou–it’s not there anymore as my mother is not here anymore, as the past is not here anymore, and what was past is past never present, and what we remember is not past but now, contemporary. Shall the twain ever meet.

I held her hand until her heart stopped beating, my mother. She was named for Jeanne D’Arc and Mere Marie, and Bernadette Soubirous and Therese de Lisieux, La Petite Fleur de l’Enfant Jesus I learned from my grandfather, Ferdinand Valentine Touponce.

I do remember the statue of Jeanne D’Arc by the Seine, how I kissed my fingers and touched her feet, reaching up, stretching to reach them with the aid of a step stool I had bought at a store to do so, giving the step stool to an old man in the park by the Louvre after having done so.

Priez pour moi ma belle douce Sainte Jeanne, ma belle douce Sainte Therese . . . Sainte Bernadette, Mere Marie . . . what more could I say when I prayed?

Beyond living . . . yes, to survive is to be beyond living . . . I do understand that there must be many Italians and French for whom their tongues are stuck up their asses when it comes to appreciating good wine. No wine is beyond the question to live or not to live–I am so tired of young men in this city saying they are just surviving. The state of their minds manacled . . . gold chains worn in clusters around the neck like the chains of the slaves in antebellum America. The horror of some ironies too much to hear I know many will say.

I know that not every Italian can cook–there were enough mothers whose dinners gave me heartburn. Not every Frenchman, let’s say, drinks wine and appreciates wine. I do know Frenchmen for whom drinking wine is a patriotic duty. I know too many Americans who also have their tongues up their asses–far many more than there should be–when they are supposed to be discerning good food and good wine. But this is no never mind to what I know, what I have understood, what I appreciate and will continue to appreciate for as long as I live, because to live without wine is not to live but survive, and survival is not living. The etymology of each should tell you how.

To survive is, as it is in French, sur/vivir, beyond living. To survive is to be beyond living, to live not being possible and certainly being something other than merely surviving . . . beyond to live; what could it mean to be beyond, al di la, as Italians say, to the from there, how I feel most of the time–how I felt whenever first in love, no? Beyond the beyond, how far is that, yet how immediate, how always near, somewhat like how infinity is always, perpetually infinitely far from wherever you are, but eternity is right next door, the next step, close by because the door to eternity is now, is here, is right away.

I am of Italian and French ancestry, whatever that means . . . so I allow myself to think I have a special connection to the development of viniculture in France and Italy. What would it be like to make wine, to grow the grapes that make the wine that makes people sing and be joyful . . . white burgundy with duck breast Parisian style I remember, medium, never well–no, not overdone, cannot be–should never be well-done when done well means overcooked as the French would say, or so I had been taught to think.

I wish I had the patience it would take to get through the Julia Child cookbook I got as a Christmas present one year how long ago now I cannot recollect. I think I want to make magret du canard as we used to have at Jule’s, with the white burgundies we used to drink . . . yes whites with duck I love, from Burgundy or from Alsasce, I had a great Riesling once with the duck at L’acajou . . . duck, medium, never well . . . but you have to know what you’re doing. If you think this means under-cooking the duck, then you do not know what you’re doing and your skin’s not going to come out right. You probably do not know what medium is for duck. And with duck, white burgundies are the best wines to have . . . never well done for duck, which is why duck is not popular in America–it is usually overcooked.

Overcooking duck, or as one old friend had done, put an ice cube in a glass of red burgundy . . . good burgundy–yes, you might as well stick your tongue up your ass if you have the mind to put an ice cube in a glass of red burgundy . . . what is there to say, to say or not to say, overcooking duck is a trait deserving of a barbarian, barbarians always burning their food.


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