Exorcising Europe

This last year in Europe has been like a long embrace of a friend whom I don’t know when I will see again. Husband on the other hand has been distancing himself, yearning to return to America. And on Thursday night he officially exorcised Europe.

It happened at a sidewalk table at Bandol, a tiny, casual, and esteemed French restaurant here in Berlin. It had been on my Berlin bucket list for awhile, and husband was in an obliging mood what with prospect of a return to America looming. I figured it couldn’t go too badly; husband can always find a steak on a Paris menu, even if he does risk saliva-seasoning by asking for it bien cuit. But this menu was challenging even for me. The salads came with deer meat or veal tongue strewn amongst the radishes, the Burgundian snails with calves’ head. I had finally settled on a traditional fish soup and husband on—what else?—a steak when we hit a problem. The entrecôte was too fatty, the chump (veal) too cruel, and the braised beef suggested by the increasingly desperate waitress came topped with steak tartare. After demurely asking for the bill for our already ordered drinks, husband piped up with a declaration: “That’s it. I am officially over Europe.  I am buying a pickup truck when we move back.”

When we left Bandol I decided to let him pick where to eat dinner. He chose Gorki Park, a trusty standby in our neighborhood and, as the name implies, Russian. And not just any Russian: throwback to USSR, super-kitsch Russian decorated with murals of red-tied Young Pioneers undertaking earnest-faced athletic pursuits. So much for his Yankee yearnings. The only thing American about his dinner was the fact that his meat-filled pastry appetizer was exactly the same shape and size as a McDonalds apple pie.

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