Wednesday, January 9, 2013

The Cassoulet

It had been a long time since Mother and I had been out on the town for dinner and a new French country restaurant had opened in our neighbourhood, “La Belle Vache.”  I have long had a penchant for Cassoulet.  Cassoulet is that wonderful mélange of boneless pork, chicken, cannellini beans, garlic and vegetables, garlic sausages and a secret ingredient, duck fat; all simmered to perfection.  What I enjoy is the wide variety of ingredients blended into a marvelous union by the chef.

Mother cannot abide Cassoulet.  “You know, Alfred, I much prefer Le Poulet Marengo.  If it was good enough for Napoleon, it’s good enough for me; although I think his Chef, Durand, was right.  The chicken and cognac are marvelous, but you can leave out the crayfish.

For a few minutes we gave ourselves to the wonderful repast before us, tearing off pieces of Pain de Campagne and sopping up the juices with the bread as we ate.

With a sigh Mother pushed her plate back and said, “I do think you’re quite wrong about Cassoulet, it looks too complex, too complicated.  It has too many ingredients to be a truly spiritual repast.

“Spiritual?” said I cautiously, “I had hardly thought of Cassoulet as a spiritual experience.” I knew without doubt that Mother had something else on her mind.

“Well,” said Mother, “It’s kind of like Church last Sunday.”

wasn't sure if I liked where this was going, so I set my heels in, “But Mother, we didn't go to Church last Sunday.”

“Don’t be obtuse Alfred!” said Mother. “You know perfectly well what I mean,” she said barrelling right along.  “Did you see that congregation?  Cassoulet.  Pure Cassoulet.  Too many different kinds of people all in one space all stewing together during that tedious sermon. I much prefer simplicity.  I like to worship with other people who are just like us.” 

“Well, Mother,” said I dryly, “There really are no people just like us.”

“Don’t be difficult Alfred.  You know perfectly well what I mean.  There was a mixed racial couple in the row right before us.  Imagine a white man marrying a Chinese woman.  And that’s not all.  Did you see that bearded man carrying the cross?  That was a bit too much.”

I looked a Mother for a minute or two, and admittedly the silence was getting a little uncomfortable.  Finally I said, “She could have been Cherokee.  I really can’t tell the difference.’

“There is no difference, Alfred.  None at all.  It’s exactly the same thing.”

“Well Mother, Church is supposed to be a little like Cassoulet, and “I happen to like Cassoulet.  You can’t have everything Le Poulet Marengo all the time!”

“Yes, but, it says somewhere in Scripture, ‘Thou shalt not mix meat and dairy’ and I’m sure that goes for mixing chicken with crayfish, and,” Mother continued triumphantly, “it also applies to mixing pork with chicken and greasy duck fat in your Cassoulet, and that is why Cassoulet is unspiritual.”

“Mother,” said I, “Sometimes you’re impossible. You know perfectly well that pork isn’t Kosher, and neither is the Church.”

“Well,” said Mother, “The bishop never answered your question about a suitable Church.  You need to call him again.  Perhaps he can refer us to a Kosher Church, rather than a Cassoulet one.

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