To “eat” the distance. French style
A plastic surgeon from Rome while approaching the table by the mirror, suddenly came up with a roulade from Rigoletto with such a fortissimo that the crystal glass threatened.
The waiter has reacted with lightning speed: a little bit bent forward he covered the head of the honorary guest with a huge linen napkin.
All those present at this secret dinner in a private mansion in the south of Fontenay-aux-Roses, ten kilometers away from Paris, smiled delicately at each other, pretending to understand what is happening and what is yet awaiting them in the next ten minutes.
Three hours earlier, doctors from twelve countries flew in for the ‘private premiere’ of a new anti-age method. Emily Bonnet, an expert on international etiquette, famous by the ability to talk about the distance in communication every time like first time, was among the guests.
That’s what she said: “This distance is different in different cultures. Therefore, people often experience discomfort when they meet with representatives of a different nationality. And there are so many myths around, so many myths … ”
All I could do was raise an eyebrow when a French “mother of etiquette” interrupted herself with a question:
“Tell me, do you also think that all people living in the south do communicate at smaller distances than those who live in the north?”
I used to live most of my life far north of my historical homeland (I have two of them, and both are southern). So I remembered well how much Southerners from external viewpoint are surprising in the way they communicate – at close distance, touching each other, looking into the eyes, breathing at each other …
But I hardly had time to answer.
—”Take a look at the Japanese! No, better look at that pale English woman” — the expert suggested motherly.— It is only now she is proud of her arrogant white face! I can ‘guarantee’ blush and downcast eyes in the evening, at dinner. İ will make her ‘eat’ the distance! I suspect she will do it faster than anybody else”, — Bonnet ominously winked. Then she returned to the protocol — to check the delicate work of her team.
Myths were left hanging in the air.
An Italian journalist approached Finnish doctors, who were as focused as chess players, and stood one meter away from them — to gesticulate freely and confidently. A young Greek responded vividly on her friendly pat on the shoulder to a middle-aged cardiologist from Helsinki. For several minutes the Greek tried to wink politely to a Japanese professor, a doctor of the imperial family. Slightly swaying he looked at his shoes. It was not quite clear: whether he was going to bow slowly, or was preparing to listen carefully to a Greek colleague.
It seemed that the conversation doesn’t add up. The author of the rejuvenating technique was nervous. He was rubbing test tubes for the fourth time. Bonnet’s intention was to facilitate intercultural communication in no time, so she invited everyone to dinner. — Dear friends, my program includes something even better than the pre-crisis prix fixe of nine dishes!
… Just a second before disappearing under a huge napkin, the surgeon from Milan threw a critical glance at the neighbor’s décolleté, a work of an unknown British master, and ended the aria muffled. Under the linen.
My upper napkin slid to the one on my lap. While I was putting it back into place, İ cast an eye over the most fashionable spring “twinset” at the table: a snow-white napkin over a snow-white kimono. Bartenev would like it.
Emily Bonnet made sure that all her guests were wearing headdresses according to etiquette, nodded to the waiters, looked at her watch and said sternly:
— No instagram, gentlemen. Merci.
We will serve you a dish that is prohibited in France. But our meeting is worth breaking the law, —Bonnet lowered her voice by a quart.
Put the whole ‘birdie’ in your mouth so that only its head remains between your open lips. Be careful! Oatmeal is burning hot. Cool it directly on the tongue, quickly inhaling the aroma by your mouth. The darkness makes you focus, nothing distracts you from the taste … — sang Bonnet in a tone of hypnotist.
It was really dark under the napkin
— L’ortolan is slowly cooling down? – she spoke in the voceof a hypnologist.- Be ready to let Armagnac flow into your mouth and feel the taste of shading and deepening notes.
We let it and felt it.
Who and to which extent was made to blush by madam, could be hardly figured out by non-rhythmic sounds coming from under the starched napkins, looked like belonging to Catholic nuns.
The good thing was: she dared to break the law for the sake of the anti—age friendship of the peoples by killing just one bird per guest.
When ten minutes later everyone finished the meal with a relief, putting aside conventions along with greasy napkins, Bonnet turned off the timer and captured scattered blissful smiles on flushed faces.
This parody on the rules of etiquette Emily performed as much as possible in French style. And the guests, who had not yet uttered a word yet, for some reason felt closer to each other.
Five months remained till the begin
Text by Agness Oganesyan