Dinner Without Subtitles – Paris Day 3 Continued

When we returned back to Montmartre after a beautiful day at Versailles we decided that we needed some food. We changed at the apartment and wandered around our neighbourhood before we found what seemed like the perfect place to have dinner. It was warm out, especially for mid September so we decided to eat outside. Now, I took French all through school, and despite being out of highschool for over 10 years, I still manage to hold my own. My stepsister’s parents had the foresight to send her to a French school and Sam grew up in New Brunswick and Montreal. They both mutter in French and Sam and I once decided to spend the whole day speaking French to one another (it lasted until we forgot, which is to say it lasted about 10 minutes). Anyway, the point of this is that I can speak well enough to ask for directions, order food, ask questions and I even had a small conversation about Boules with a man at the Jardin du Luxembourg, so reading a menu was not something I found challenging. Most of the menus in the more touristy areas were subtitled in English anyway, which was nice for my mother because she didn’t have to be read her food options like a child.

Side note – at the airport before we left, I asked my mother how much French she knew and she proudly replied that she knew how to say two things, “deux oeufs” and “Henri! Donne-moi le poulet”, which translates to “two eggs” and “Henry, give me the chicken”. I asked her which phrase she learned first. The joke was lost on her. So, my mother’s grasp of the French language is not entirely useful in everyday conversation but certainly has its place in a restaurant, provided your server’s name is Henri.

This particular restaurant did not have subtitled menus but my mother spotted a familiar word, “veau”.

“That’s veal, right?” she asked me. I confirmed that it was veal. The menu (from what I remember) read “Rognon de veau avec tagliatelle et salade”. Those of you who are fluent in French already have the punch line of this story, but I interpreted this to be veal with tagliatelle pasta and salad, which to me meant it was probably some sort of scaloppine. We both ordered it. Let me tell you something, it was not scaloppine. When it arrived at our table the meat was…much more phallic than I expected it to be. I expected a flat piece of veal. My mother thought we had received the wrong dish, but the pasta and salad were present and just as described. She thought it was liver, but it wasnt liver shaped and liver in French is “foie” like foie gras. She suggested that maybe it was kidney, but again it wasn’t kidney-shaped and I knew the word for kidney in French, it’s “rénale”. We each took a bite. I could barely swallow it. My mother assured me that even though she couldn’t identify the organ, this was certainly organ meat that we were eating. I was not going to eat any more.

“You have to!” my mother said, “you will offend the chef if you don’t finish it. The waiter will think we are rude.” I pointed out to her that I didn’t know the chef, would never meet him and would take the chance at offending him before eating the rest of some unidentified organ of a baby cow. She still wasnt sold on the possibility of us not finishing our meal, so I did what anyone would do. I put the meat in my purse. Seriously. I wrapped it in my napkin and put it in my purse. I gave my mother my very expensive designer wallet before because I couldn’t have it smelling like organ meat. My mother quickly got on board with the purse plan. I guess she wasnt so concerned about the chef’s feelings after all. For those of you still wondering, I looked up “rognon” when I got home and it ALSO means kidney. I felt duped, to say the least.

After we escaped the restaurant, threw our purse meat in the garbage and wandered around our neighbourhood trying to smoke enough to get the taste of kidney out of our mouths. I quit smoking almost 6 years ago, but I decided that when in France…

Almost by accident we stumbled upon this –

Sacre Coeur at night. It was incredible. It looked like paper all lit up with the dark sky behind it. I felt like if I sneezed the whole thing would fall down. I think that in a city full of beautiful old, gothic churches Sacre Coeur gets lost in the mix. Its centuries newer than Notre Dame, and probably doesn’t get the recognition it deserves. I have to admit that it wasn’t on the short list of things I desperate to see in Paris, and had I decided to stay elsewhere in the city I probably wouldn’t have seen it. I only moved it to my list of things to see when I knew that it was only blocks away from my apartment. I planned on seeing it during the day, not the night. I am glad we had this happy accident and I only wish that he effect the church had on us that night translated to the pictures we took of it.

After sitting in front of Sacre Coeur for a while, still laughing about our dinner mishap, we made our way home to eat some bread and cheese we had luckily bought on the way home from Versailles. We were pretty hungry, after all, we didn’t have any dinner.


2 thoughts on “Dinner Without Subtitles – Paris Day 3 Continued

  1. Corey Frye says:

    Haha…the old meat-in-the-purse trick…brilliant! I can’t believe you guys actually did that, that’s hilarious. If it’s any consolation I’ve been speaking French in Paris for a year and a half now and I didn’t have a clue what “rognon” meant until this post. I hope you at least managed to enjoy the pasta & salad a bit…

    As for Sacré Coeur, what I love so much about Paris is how often you can come across something incredibly beautiful by surprise. You can turn a corner at any moment and feel like you’re in a movie or painting. I’m glad you were able to have a few of these moments during your stay!

    Finally, while some of my family were visiting me last year, my sister (who smokes) lit up at one point and all of a sudden my mom (who hasn’t smoked since high school) started taking tokes off it, claiming “Hey I’m in Paris!” Somehow it seems cigarettes smoked in Paris don’t count the same as normal cigarettes…


    • Ashleigh says:

      One of my sisters and a close friend are both fluent in French and neither knew what “rognon” meant either, but in Canada when we just assume that it could be a difference between Quebecois and actual French.

      At that point I felt like everything on my plate tasted of “rognon” so I did not enjoy my dinner. I ate most of the salad and tried to move the pasta around as much as possible to give the appearance of having eaten most of it, but my mother was quick to remind me that this trick never fooled her when I did it to my green beans as a child, she wasn’t sure why I thought it would trick our server. 🙂


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