Me, I am Bistro – Talker

Nearly 500 pages to die for in the Bistrobook of knowledge “to eat well and drink well” written by Stéphane Reynaud at the editions of Chêne


Some reread Proust to accept the emptiness of modern times, I choose at the beginning of November, the Bistro, large block, as thick as a Charolais beef rib, written by Stéphane Reynaud and illustrated by the artist photographer Marie-Pierre Morel. Her shots are juicy as you wish, the marbling of the meats she captures under her lens makes you cringe on the plate; as for the terrines, splendid with agrarian poetry, naturalistic paintings where the fat and the lean harmonize in autumnal tones, their visual rendering has a kind of crusty shine with bronze reflections which calls for happy mastication, my jaws are clattering with advance, I no longer belong to myself, I give in to the sin of gluttony.

I wonder if the Bistrobook that revives “the bistro spirit at home” is not the most sensual and heartbreaking, most salutary and marvelous, most deeply human and disinterested thing I have read in the past twenty years.

Last witness of our civilization

I wonder if the Bistrobook that revives “the bistro spirit at home” is not the most sensual and heartbreaking, most salutary and marvelous, most deeply human and disinterested thing I have read in the past twenty years. We are both with Virgil and with Rabelais, in a drawing by Sempé or a film by Sautet. There is in this household collection, a form of abandonment and internal exile which says much more about our resistance to the gravediggers of the ” eat well ” than the laborious reading of the gamy and victimized autofiction of the literary season. First you check out this Bistro distractedly, with a furtive glance, without realizing that the zinc and the white tablecloths are the last witnesses of our most evolved civilization. And then, you stop at a few dishes from your childhood, and there, between the pork rillettes and the snout salad, your eyes start to shine, your stomach cries out for hunger, your tongue cries out for help, you’re hungry.

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Tripe, kidneys, lamb brains

From the first page of his novel The mandarin published in 1957, Christine de Rivoyre wrote this famous phrase: “After ten years of marriage, a woman shouldn’t want to eat after love, but me, Séverine, I want to, and it’s a feeling that I seek, that I cherish…”. The taste of the good and the eternal does not deceive. All these pot-bellied starters, these smart pork dishes, these matured butcher pieces, these unstable scale platters and these childhood desserts are the mirror of our bistro culture, at the crossroads of Lyon mothers, Parisian brasseries to the singing hubbub and responsible producers.

In this Bistro, there is the France of breeders, winegrowers, cooks, market gardeners, bakers, oyster farmers, of all the organizers of a saving well-being. Without them, we would have already turned into a suicidal virtuality. Going to a bistro to bite into a real ham and butter at the counter or sitting down to a table in front of a Toulouse sausage/mash is an enchanting interlude in a worker’s day, too bad it’s most often a luxury, it should be a fundamental right, a social advance demanded by the unions, a republican requirement. Because we don’t just go there to eat with dignity, but also to listen to nearby conversations, fend off the hassles of the morning, extract ourselves from our loneliness and finally share an hour of our life with strangers, an hour that would not be subject to immediate and obscene profitability, a time when speech would be free and the cooking precise. Our citizenship would grow out of it.

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So, when morale is flagging, when petrol is running out and the news is simply disgusting without name, we long for a few minutes of respite around unifying recipes. To remember and commune on the altar of a humanist gastronomy. God it’s beautiful, a bistro serving head cheese or gougères with Mornay sauce, I can see the expert hand of the charcutier and the virtuosity of the master saucier. These gestures of brotherhood contribute to our national cohesion. Do not look elsewhere for the ferments of our “living together”, it is found at noon in establishments which still respect the origin of the products, the seasonality and the control of the fire. In the face of these immemorial tastes, our memory has forgotten nothing. Faced with a soft-boiled egg, I kneel down.

We are entering the month of offal, the Bistro, talks to us about tripe, kidneys with chestnuts or lamb’s brains, with simple words, without affectation, without ostentation, without instrumentation, without political calculation, just because their texture and their taste imprint give us very good emotions. superior to great literature. I still can’t get over the photo (page 237) of a big salty dish, its Le Puy lentils, its slices of sausage, its pork loin and its smoked belly, we are reaching the heights of culinary eroticism.

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