translated from the original french
Jan. 6, 2010 4:16 pm
Updated: Jan. 8, 2010 4:25 am
I should point out up front that I am not an imbecile. If we must, we can agree to disagree on that point. But the thing of it is, I am frequently bewildered by simple, ordinary things. I am, it’s safe to say, in danger of losing the thread -- or worse yet, of never grasping it to begin with.
Take the time not long ago when SLS and I went to dinner with friends at a nice Seattle restaurant (Tilth), a place that specializes in locally produced organic food, beautifully prepared and uniformly delicious. Now here’s the place in the story where I pause suddenly to reveal that recently I passed a couple happy years studying food issues, including French culture and cuisine, ultimately walking away with a masters in gastronomy from Boston University.
It’s just a fact, a fact that you might think would put me in a decent-enough position comprehension-wise when I'm seated at a table of a nice restaurant with a server standing at my elbow beginning to describe the specials, which on this night include an elaborate, savory pastry with grass-fed meat and locally sourced vegetables in a creamy sauce served in a souffle dish. It comes by the French name popeille, and whatever it is, boy it sure sounds delicious.
Now, popeille, I have to admit, is a name that I am not entirely familiar with despite those previously mentioned years of study in a related field.
For a few moments, I am left to wonder quietly to myself about popeille. And then to SLS and my friends, I say, "Popeille? What's popeille? I've never heard of popeille. It sounds interesting, though. I think I'm going to ask the server about that popeille."
Probably I’m able to say popeille a few more times before SLS asks, "Popeille? What are you saying?”
“That special. The Popeille?”
“What are you talking about?” she asks.
Of course I’m talking about the special, the popeille.
“Uh, you mean the ‘pot pie’?" she informs. "The special’s pot pie!”
Anything else she might’ve said was drowned out by the rolling wave of laughter that crashed over the table, washing away my dignity.
Pot pie. I guess it was just the setting that threw me off. I didn’t expect “pot pie” to come out of the server’s mouth in a place like this, so my ears and (more to the point) my brain did everything possible to turn them into something else, into something that seemed more appropriate for the moment, something, gasp, French-sounding! I’m sure if I’d been at Wendy’s and the cashier had said, “slow-braised beef cheeks,” I would’ve heard, “would you like a Frosty with that?”
Probably this whole thing is a comment on “matter out of place” and the tyranny of expectations. But exploring that sounds like a class assignment, and since I’m not in school anymore, I can just mention it in passing, drop it, and be on my way.
By the way, I ordered the pot pie, of course. How could I pass it up? For one thing, it gave me the excuse to say “popeille” a few dozen more times. And you can be sure it was delicious. (It really was.) Tilth took the humble pot pie to a whole ’nother level. We drank a Tamarack Cellars Firehouse Red that night (which I highly recommend); no doubt, it’s my popeille wine-pairing of choice!
For your convenience and enjoyment, here's Allrecipes' Popeille Collection.