Now, it is only one o’clock in the afternoon and we have given up sanitizing dishes long ago. We have also given up on measurements, as well as all consideration for the general health of our clientele. Each day it happens, yet no amount of preparation can ease the bombardment. The kitchen is simply too small, and building regulations, along with constant pestering by the fire marshal, block all movements to secure a gas range. So once again we are forced to make due with the row of five electric hotplates, one of which shorts and delivers needles of electrical current whenever the chicken breast needs to be turned. Although today it is already mid service, and the poultry delivery still has not arrived. In fact portions have become so insignificant that in order to combat any complaints, the name on the menu has been changed from poitrine a le sauce maison to ailes sans os à la sauce maison. Poulet, champignons, epinards, everything gets the sauce. The sauce however, is no sauce at all, but pure bourbon.
Marcelle, who is just tall enough to see over the train of order tickets running like a river of piss from one end of the copper counter to the other, cannot reach the cooking booze on the shelf. In the tight space between the oven, hotplates, sink, and espresso machine, we work in constant bodily communion. At her word I reach up for the heavy glass jug, but all I can find is more evidence of the infestation.
For a month now, the little black pellets have become more and more apparent in the Cafe 7. We have lost an entire 10 kilograms of baking flour and 3 kilograms of pecans to the insidious vermin. The effort required to bore through the respective plastic storage containers led me to assume that we had acquired nothing less than rats from the deepest levels of the catacombs. However, when one week ago, I discovered a velvet-colored mouse half drowned in a bottle of truffle oil, I found my suspicions were clearly made in haste.
Never have I seen such a rodent. Its coat had the richness of raw cacao, its eyes like sterling eggs. Clearly he was eating well, and so I assume there must be a network of tunnels connecting the different kitchens of the Left Bank beyond our dingy burrow.
Marcelle, indifferent to the quality of the breed, just as she is indifferent to the quality of everything else, did not wince in disgust, nor even flash her perverted teeth. After 17 years cooking on the line in various bistros across the city, the stress has whittled her smile down to the stumps. The only pleasure the wiry woman from Grenoble now finds is at the conclusion of service: Dumping 70 covers worth of charred cast iron at my feet before stepping out to smoke, she has made it her habitual duty to remind me, “N’il y a pas des vagues à Paris. There is no surf in Paris.”