“With each hand, make a circle with your index finger and thumb. Which one looks like a b? That’s your bread.” A bit of confused anatomical study proceeded, and a multi-minute debate over which plate was whose was put to rest. Those who drew first crumb had already descended into territorial skirmishes before order could be restored. As students at a top university, the small things are what defeat us, such as having warm, famously irresistible French bread placed unexpectedly on our left, as if they expected us right-handed majority to not continuously grab for a morsel.
Neither college students nor Americans are particularly hailed for their manners, but a bit of advice from those with some manners in their upbringing as well as the occasional tip by Madame Serafin allowed us to avoid complete social faux pas. This “Very French Lunch” arranged by her “On My Radar” program was another smashing hit, feeding the hungry population of college students with a perfectly prepared and authentic meal. Innovation often arises through combining two formerly unrelated concepts. In this case, the culinary college nearby had students who needed to be graded on their abilities, and GTL had students who wanted to skip class to be fed and waited on. This was the complete dining experience: fluffy French pastries, effortless serving, 3 courses, 3 different drinks, and of course, the endless supply of bread. Like most of these events, it was held conveniently on a weekday when everyone is around, and professors even adjusted their schedules so that students could attend. In France, food is given the respect it deserves.
Most of us had never eaten quite so elegant a meal before. Discussions rotated between “The crisis of the 10,000 forks,” “How much bread can a purse smuggle,” and “Is Nutella really a chocolate – but more to the point, can it also go in this purse” while feigning a level of class we clearly did not possess. Pretenses aside, the food was delicious, even if I didn’t fully understand what I was eating. To begin, a puff pastry so flaky I couldn’t contain it, a bright citrus drink, and sparkling water I actually enjoyed the taste of. I’ve been known to draw my fair share of disapproving European frowns as I order my water still in restaurants, but this one did not need to be turned away. The main course was an amalgamation of poultry that I couldn’t tell apart, but one bird seemed to be the result of taking butter and convincing it to come alive. It was honestly the best bird I’ve ever eaten. For dessert, a chocolate mousse and a classic macaron that was my first sampling not provided by the shelves of Auchan grocery. They’re much more pleasing fresh. Of course, the addicting espresso followed: a habit of mid-day caffeine that I can get used to.
The existence of this lunch itself isn’t necessarily anything extraordinary – GTL and BDE often provide an assortment of activities that we can participate in. It’s the details brought in by everyone who came together to participate that bring them to life. Madame Serafin’s bold personality, food covertly traded (despite all eating the same meal), and playful mocking are signature events.