“There is no love sincerer than the love of food.” -George Bernard Shaw
In the winter of 2004, I had the brilliant idea to take a trip to France. I thought to myself, “Sure… this’ll be great. I’ll go out there all alone. I’ve been talking to that French guy on the Internet for the past few months… yeah, this is a good idea.”
Ok… so it was a little wacky. But, my gut said that it was a good idea, even though my head was making fun of me constantly, using words like “careless” & “daft”.
But, hell… since when do cautious & rational have all of the fun?
It was November. The plan was set for me to spend 2 weeks in France during April of 2005.
Fast forward to April in Paris.
Skip ahead to me & him, in his apartment in Montmartre.
That apartment... well, it's in here somewhere.
“I rented a car,” he said. “I thought that next week, we’d take a road trip. We can stop at different castles & villages, making our way down south to the Mediterranean coast.”
“Sounds good,” I said.
Jump ahead to the first day of the road trip. We drive for a couple of hours before stopping for the night in Orléans. We check into our hotel, then wander around the city until dark. Eventually, we found ourselves needing food. We walked up to the nearest restaurant so that we could take a gander at the menu posted next to the door.
It was a Lebanese restaurant. In Loveland, Colorado, there aren’t many of these. In fact, there aren’t many Lebanese restaurants in the entire state of Colorado – last time I checked, there were only 3 of them. Needless to say, this was the first one that I had ever seen. Everything on the menu was completely foreign to me.
“What do you think?” Olivier, who is part Lebanese, was grinning at me. “You feel like giving it a try?”
I looked again at the wacky menu, with all of it’s strange new words: Kibbeh, Labneh & Shanklish. Wara’ Enab, Tabbouleh & Shish Taouk.
“Hell yes I want to give it a try,” I said.
Over the next couple of hours, we had a bottle of Lebanese wine, mezze & cigarettes. It was some of the best food that I’d ever tasted.
Food that does not require utensils to eat it = pure joy.
After we’d consumed everything, we went back to our hotel & back to our road trip.
Skip over the long goodbyes at the airport when I flew back home to Colorado.
Fast forward to me, on a plane, moving to France, to his tiny apartment in Montmartre.
Jump ahead to a wedding – our wedding in March of 2006. We decided to have it catered by a local Lebanese restaurant. It seemed like the obvious choice.
This stuff is quite addictive.
Fast forward to our first anniversary. It had to be something special. I hadn’t yet been to Normandy, so we decided to spend the weekend stuffing ourselves with crêpes while wandering about the WWII stuff.
Skip ahead to anniversary number two. We were still living in that tiny apartment in Montmartre & decided to have dinner at a Greek restaurant in Paris called Mavrommatis. Olivier was sick & blasting fistfuls of snot all night. Still… memorable.
Jump ahead to year three: we found a nice little French restaurant in downtown Sucy-en-Brie, where we now reside.
Here we are… year four. While snot blasting is always sure to be a good time, we didn’t see the point in repeating those shenanigans, or embarking on another historical tour of Normandy.
We could have just gone out to dinner. Again.
“We should go on a little trip,” Olivier said. “Maybe a weekend, or just overnight.”
“Ok,” I said. “What did you have in mind?”
“Lebanese food in Orléans.”
Now with a car of our own instead of a rental, we were off to Orléans.
We had booked a room in the same hotel; the first hotel we had ever stayed at together.
We returned to the same restaurant; the scene of the first mezze that we had shared with one another. But, more importantly, it was the first Lebanese restaurant that I had ever been to.
It was where I fell in love. With Lebanese cuisine.
Over the next couple of hours, we had our mezze & a bottle of wine. No cigarettes this time. A few things had changed – for the better.
Of course, after apéritif & a bottle of wine, there was the expected jackassery.
Pro Tip: Jackassery performed in the bathroom makes for easy clean up.
In the morning, room service brought our breakfast, complete with stinky cheese.
While we sat on the hotel bed, watching old episodes of MacGyver dubbed in French & eating our typical French breakfast, I kept thinking of the dinner we had eaten the night before. Just as every time we stuff ourselves with Lebanese cuisine, there is anticipation before… & the inability to get it out of the head afterward.
It’s a lot like being in love.