I stared at the raw egg sitting on top of my pizza and wondered how I could possibly get out of eating it. It was a gentle October day and there wasn’t a cloud in the sky. People at the tables around me were chatting, smoking, laughing and reading. Some of them were enthusiastically consuming the raw eggs on the pizzas they themselves had ordered. Although I was perched daintily at a table in a lovely outdoor café in Paris—and I wanted very much to be taken as a local, rather than as a tourist—I had issues with eating my own.
Food in Paris—in France itself—isn’t always what you think it’s going to be. I’ve eaten at five-star Michelin restaurants in that gorgeous country, as well as at humble rural inns. Sometimes they are one and the same. I’ve had lovely picnics in unusual places. I’ve eaten “Les Cuisses de Grenouille” (frog’s legs) which I thought were unexceptional and I’ve eaten a single spoonful of a mysterious yellow concoction the chef had ordered that had both my mouth and my tummy on their knees, begging for more.
I innocently ordered “Ris de veau” once, completely ignorant of the fact that it was calf pancreas, delightfully prepared but not terribly delicious. I might have been fluent in French, but there were still holes in my vocabulary.
Those adventures in eating were still ahead of me the day I first encountered pizza in Paris, however. Why on Earth would anyone ever slap a raw egg on a pizza, for heaven’s sake?! My companion, by contrast—the man I was living with at the time—never had a second thought about anything presented for his consumption. He devoured food with gusto, no matter how evil it looked, and no doubt went on to experience countless culinary capers years after we parted ways.
But raw eggs? Doesn’t almost all humanity know they harbor Salmonella, a cause of the kind of food-borne illness that creates conditions unfit for human conversation? I took a deep breath, said a prayer, took another mouthful of wine, and waded in. The goo jiggling in the middle of the pie slid into the cavity I made with my first forkful. I shuddered. I took another bite. The waiter had brought a bottle of spicy, fragrant olive oil to the table. I sprinkled some of it over my pizza. I took another bite. More wine, more pizza, and more egg followed in comfortable succession until I realized, with a start, that I was actually enjoying the explosion of flavor I was experiencing, raw egg or no. It was like a celebration of fireworks going off in my mouth. And I wanted more!
Why wasn’t the whole world putting raw eggs on pizzas, I wondered!
Eventually we completed our meal and my companion and I sat back in our chairs and focused on the parade of humanity strolling past our table. We were in Paris. We were in love. Life was good.
Would you like to join me in France for my writer’s retreat this fall and experience French food first-hand? Contact me, and let’s chat about what that is going to look like!