Terrine

Terrine “Cherie wauh es d’thee tureen what you ordered?”

***

ust in time as the host’s wife was getting impatient. I heard her starting to nag him, “Cherie wauh es d’thee tureen what yoo oderred?”

TERRINE
Working night’s only, I usually do not get to trudge up Spaghetti-hill until around midnight or later. That is what the locals call the steep hill, the one with the single family homes who have small apartment complexes in their backyards. Located below the Presidio of Monterey, overlooking the Monterey bay, they name this part of town after the early settlers, Italian fishermen. Their grand children still own much of the land up here.

I think back at a group of eight I had waited on earlier. The host, whose name had a French sound to it, had ordered one of these Terrine of Foie Gras. The one we carry comes in small ceramic containers originally packed in Strasbourg. It is much like the Russian caviar in price, a big container containing little. The ounce price is up there with the precious metal prices. I brought the small white container holding the goose liver pate to the table. The host waved me to his side. So I placed the terrine, sitting in a bowl of ice, in front of him. The woman to his left took the container out and pushed the bowl with crushed ice farther away. The host needed another drink, so did everybody else. I got them their refills, a second round of cocktails, in a hurry. I served these libations and overheard the host raving about his mother’s cooking abilities. She was French. He mentioned she had worked in the finest kitchen’s in downtown Paris. I heard him talking about how he grew up with exclusively French cooking. I listened to his passionate descriptions of French food. Within a toast he expressed his affection for his French mother in that he thanked her for teaching him all she knew.

Getting to the third round of drinks he cracked jokes about French maids. His family must have gone through dozens of servants while he was growing up. The way he talked, I assumed, that he had been taught French from early age on. His new, second wife was part French too, so was his first wife. So he said.
I watched the host’s wife spreading plenty of the pate onto her bread, then him doing the same, ignoring the butter and not offering any to their guests. It thought this to be strange but took the guests’ orders for their salads and main-courses. I know when to mind my own business. I brought them more drinks and served them their salads. Nevertheless, I left the goose liver pate container on the table as there was still half a teaspoon full in it.

I was picking up food in the kitchen from the kitchen-pick-up-line for another table, when the manager found me in the kitchen and asked “What’s happening with the soup for table ninety-six?” That was the eight-top and I did not know a thing about a soup order. I told the manager what I knew and that I had to serve the hot food in my hands first, before doing anything else. He offered to go back to the table to find out what soup they wanted.

I served the food at table ninety and saw the manager discretely talking with the eight-top’s host. As the manager left, the guest got up and came over toward me. I finished grinding pepper over a fillet served at this other table. The guest from the eight-top waved me aside. Standing out of sight of his table, near the public phones, he looked around to make sure nobody would hear it as he said “I’m embarrassed!” and he slipped a bank note into my hand “M’sieu, pardon, I really thought I we get a big tureen with some liver and noodle soup!” “Yes?” “M’sieu garcon can you bring us a big bowl of chicken soup or what-have-you?” “Yes!”
He needed me to get him a big bowl of whatever soup, preferable a chicken soup with noodles? Or whatever I could get him fast. I agreed and promised not to mention a word about this conversation to any of his guest! I slipped the money into my pants’ pocket, went to the kitchen and twisted the chef’s arm into making the requested soup for me right away. I served it as soon as it was ready, just in time. The host’s wife was getting impatient starting to nag him: “Cherie wauh es d’thee tureen what yoo oderred?”
When I brought them their main-courses, they were still having more cocktails. And they skipped dessert in favor of after dinner drinks. These eight were pickled. They were feeling not much pain as they left.

One of the women stayed behind, digging in her little gold embroidered going-out-to-dine-handy bag, she found her lipstick. I directed her to the bathrooms for she asked me where she could check her make-up. Her friends had left. Asking me to get her another drink she told me that she had purposely waited for the others to out the door. Now certain that they were gone, she asked if she could have the Foie Gras porcelain container. As I put it into a little bag for her, she confessed that they all had noticed the host’s blunder but tactfully none of the guest had mentioned it. The woman said “Oui, that’s him, rich and dumb.” “Mais, a generous man he is.”

This lady thanked me for my waiting job on with a big hug and a kiss on both cheeks. I thought she was leaving. Yet she came back to tell me “Oui, I can’t understand why he was saying he is French.”

“C’est vrai, the closest thing to French is this whore of a wife which he found in the French quarters, his first wife. …listen we both used to work in New Orleans. Have you ever been there?” I answered with a “No!” She made me promise her to see it one day.

She was drunk, but pleasant. They all were nice people indeed. As I shut down my station, as it was closing time, I was waiting for one of the men in her group to come back and get her. Half an hour later, still listening to this lady, it became obviously to me that her might not have noticed that she was left behind. After sipping on her drink. This lady was putting another layer of lipstick on. I did my cashing out and coming back to the table watched her checking her face in the mirror. I thanked her and told her good night as I was getting ready to leave. “Would you walk me to my hotel?” she asked.

I offered her my arm and dutifully guided her. Within this one and a half block walk she gabbed nonstop about her friend, the host’s wife, and all she knew about his mother. She called the host’s mother “A streetwise girl from Soho, a social climber.” I got to hear gossip about the host’s wife, who she said had successfully mounted and married and buried her first husband an older rich plantation owner.

Trying to keep her to walk somewhat straight I put my arm around her. I said, “Her husband didn’t look old to me.”
“Oui! Of Course not, that’s her fifth husband. The first one left her beaucoup dollars!” I listened, as I guided her across the street.
“The third was rich too, he died the same way the first did.” She was hanging onto me unstable on her own two feet. Crossing the road she broke one of her high heels. I suggested therefore she better take both shoes off.

Her arm around my neck, mine around her hips, she was holding a brown bag with the terrine container. In my free hand I held her shoes, her tiny handbag was stuffed into one of her red Italian stiletto heeled walking devices.

We must have looked much like a couple who had been hitting one too many bars. She was not shy at all, but expressed how much she appreciated a man’s shoulder to hang on to. She was funny in her own way as her body bumped against me at every step. I listened to her bubbling about her lady friend’s, the host’s wife, first husband, who in his seventies had still been strong like an ox.

At the hotel entrance, in full view of everybody, she surprised me with a big long kiss. She laughed uncontrolled as I steadied her who was staggering through the hotel lobby. I couldn’t leave her there so I escorted her to the hotel’s elevator.

I smile thinking about this group. They were quite colorful, but happy people. It is a clear warm night. After climbing the hill to my humble apartment I take off my shoes and change into some comfortable house-clothes. I see the lipstick marks on my cheeks, look at them in the mirror. These were certainly quite a set of silky soft big lips. The proof is in the mirror image. I am hungry. Checking the refrigerator I find some smoked liver sausage. A few thin slices of a red onion add texture and crunchiness. I arrange my late night food on a wooden cutting board which doubles as tray too. A glass of iced Ginseng tea completes my snack tray. I prefer the kind of beverage they say gives one a long life, the kind priced in oriental stores at a hundred dollars per box. I take my food out onto the balcony and listen to the ocean.

There are still many lights downtown. Out on the bay a handful of squid fishing boats have started their nightly work. The water around each vessel is lit up by powerful lights. There are five of these jade green dots in the Monterey Bay. I eat. I watch four more squid boats joining the fleet.
It usually takes me about an hour to unwind after work. Thinking of the customers with the goose liver pate I get up and check the pockets of my work-pants. There it is! No! It isn’t! That’s a note scribbled on a bar napkin “Call me 624 1835 Lynn!” In the forth pocket, there it is, a crumbled green bill! A hundred dollars from the fellow who did not know the difference between goose liver terrine and tureen of chicken soup. The Lynn note was from another table. It was from two ladies and one of them thought I might be interested and available as a date. I glance at my shirt in the laundry basket, a business card sticks out of the shirt pocket. Lucille Lynch, Assistant Manager it says and the address of a Bank in New Orleans. I turn it over. There it states “Look me up!!!” all sealed with a big kiss from very familiar looking lips.

by helmut schonwalder