I have integrated pretty well and with pleasure into French culture and I can successfully do many things Parisians do – I can speak and understand French, I wear scarves in all seasons, I can extend my espresso in a café over two hours, I can complain at length (although I was pretty good at it before), and I have mastered the famous French shrug. (Shrugging your shoulders with simultaneous sticking out of your lower lip which sometimes accompanied by the sound “bof”)
But I realized that there is one thing, which is still standing between me and the freedom- it’s tongs. Yes, tongs. I cannot feel myself at ease in french society until I can gracefully use the tongs which usually arrive with a dish of escargot. (In France, they leave the little creatures inside their shells). Correction – until I can use them at all.
What’s wrong with my hands? I have no problem using chopsticks or playing etudes on a piano. But here I am all thumbs and helpless and very embarrassed when I try to grab one of those shells and it jumps out of my grip like a slippery fish just short of getting into the eye of the person at the next table…Then I smile apologetically or make pretend it didn’t just happen.
So, after a few attempts, I usually give up, start using my fingers to hold the shells, and think to myself that maybe I should practice it at home, where nobody can see me.
Well, you will say, what IS the problem? Use your hands and voilà! Who cares? And you would be right, but…
I am at the stage now when it became a personal challenge, and it is now between The Tongs and me.
Watch this space!
A few little facts about escargot:
- The French consume 40,000 metric tons of snails each year.
- Snails have been eaten as food since at least ancient Roman times.
- May 24th is National Escargot Day (note: no French person I spoke to ever heard of this).