Saturday, November 22, 2008

...makes the tart grow fonder

A few days ago, I was sampling lots of nice food for free and wondering whether 'restaurant reviewer' should be added to my list of the only jobs that are really worth doing.

One of the dishes was an orange and absinthe sorbet, which led to a discussion with the nice restaurant PR lady about la fée verte and its various cultural connotations. She knew that the stuff had been banned in many European countries for much of the 20th century, and that Kylie Minogue had played its spectral manifestation in Moulin Rouge; but not, apparently, that its renaissance in Britain was partly due to the efforts of someone who'd once been the drummer in The Jesus and Mary Chain.

And we talked about 1915, the year in which France prohibited the production of absinthe, and the resulting invention of pastis; literally a pastiche of absinthe, a half-hearted impersonation, a fuzzy photocopy of the real thing. And it was only then that I realised that a drink such as Pernod was, for much of its existence, a perfect simulacrum; a copy of something that didn't exist.

But I didn't say anything; I refrained from pontificating about Baudrillard and Deleuze and The Matrix to someone who really just wanted me to write nice things about her restaurant. Maybe I don't need to see Baudrillard in everything, like someone finding the name of God in an aubergine; maybe, as with my bubblewrap moment, it's a sign that I'm finally joining the human race. Although I still shared it with you, I suppose. Maybe that's different.

We moved on to the paprika-smoked Ahi tuna, and jolly nice it was too.


Christopher said...

Some would hold that 'pastis', an Occitan/Provençal word particularly associated with Marseilles meaning 'mixture' - and by extension 'muddle' or 'mess' - isn't directly cognate with 'pastiche/pasticcio'. (The 'mixture' is the combination of alcohol with various distillations of aniseed, licorice, fennel, etc.)

The word didn't appear on labels ('le vrai pastis de Marseille') until the 1930s. Might this explain why Americans usually refer to it as Pernod, sometimes pronouncing it as 'purr-nahdd' which causes Gallic eyebrows to lift?

Fernandel had the last word on pastis/Pernod: 'Le pastis, c'est comme les seins: un, c'est pas assez, et trois, c'est trop.'

West said...

One Christmas, the guy who ran the grocer/offy round the corner from us in Teddinghampton had ordered in a bottle of absinthe for one of his customers. I happened to be in the shop to collect my 24 bottle crate of Budwar when she came in to pick it up. Nice lass. Gave me a lift home. You wouldn't have thought little wings like that could bear the weight of an eighteen stone lump in a 1971 Arsenal away strip carrying a 24 bottle crate of Budwar, but there you go...



p.s. gourd wikifififaction: chrstphrcmpbll-hws

To name but three??

Annie said...

Absinthe led me to blogs, you know. The first blog I ever read was called Green Fairy (now Pandemian) - I found her when Googling for fondant fancies.

Food reviewing, you lucky bastard.
You know what job I would like? I'd like to be the person who awards lottery winners their money. There's a job which makes people happy, where everyone is ecstatic to meet you. I can't think of any down side to it.

Rog said...

You could have described something as "simulacrumtious" Tim.

(I've resisted saying "Absinthe will make your Art stronger" so perhaps I've passed the Bublewrap watershed - providing stuff in brackets doesn't count of course.)

Tim F said...

I stand (potentially) corrected, Christopher. But Fernandel had clearly never heard of Eccentrica Gallumbits.

Bob: I also tend to spend Christmas away with the fairies.

Don't you think jealousy might arise, Annie. Lottery winners never seem particularly deserving.

(Stuff in brackets never counts, Murph.)

Christopher said...

Fernandel: Eccentrica Gallumbits - great link, thanks. Sounds like an intriguing start to a game of Consequences. How do you know these things?

patroclus said...

I hope you don't ever stop seeing Baudrillard in everything and sharing it with us. Only the other night I was watching 'A Cock and Bull Story' and thought how much I'd enjoy reading your review of it. Maybe you've already reviewed it somewhere?

Tim F said...

Ooh, don't you start, Christopher, or I'll send Dermot Murnaghan round to sort you out.

I did touch on it here, Patroclus, but that was before I'd seen the film. Not that that should ever be an impediment.