Of Cooking and Feet on Tables.
I am spending beautiful days by the lake with my mother and Gillis (MNH), mainly in the kitchen heavily immersed in cooking, trying out all sorts of new recipes for the hotel, changing them to fit in with what is available in Djenne.
M. Vielle’s kindly-meant words still hover around as a faint irritating echo, spurring me on. ( M. Vielle is the Cultural Attaché at the French Embassy in Bamako, who thinks the food is not quite up to standard at the hotel). Last night I made Vichyssoise but changed the cream for yoghurt- it was very good. Tomorrow I am going to do Gravad Lax- when I get to Djenne I will try out Gravad Capitaine. My God, if that is not chic enough for M. Vielle I don’t know what is!
Talking about CHIC and the Vielles, there is also Madame Vielle, who is not only chic but also a very nice lady in every way. She has been kind enough to bring me lots of things from Bamako which I cannot find in Djenne. There is one thing with her though…
I believe there is a recent trend amongst very well brought up people to attempt to alleviate the impression of elitism that their impeccable manners may provoke by putting their feet in places where they should not be. When I was in London just before the election, I noticed a picture of Mr. Cameron sitting in a window, with one Nike-clad foot pulled up next to himself on the windowsill. I believe this was very deliberate, in order to reassure prospective voters that he was not a stuffy old fogey, but hip and with-it.
Now, at the hotel, I have told the staff that it is not allowed to put feet on tables, no matter whose feet we are talking about. There are some loutish people who will arrive, TAKE THEIR SHOES AND SOCKS OFF, then order a beer and put their feet on the table! Then we will ask them politely to remove the feet from the table. I have told the staff that no one is allowed under any circumstances to put their feet on the tables.
But there is Madame Vielle.
What to do about Madame Vielle?
She puts her elegant feet, clad in Chanel trainers on the table, possibly to indicate that she is relaxed, non-stuffy and enjoying herself. When this happens, the staff glance nervously in my direction. I take courage, I stroll over casually in the direction of Madame Vielle. I clear my throat and I open my mouth, but the amazing thing is the intended words will not come out. Madame Vielle looks up and smiles and I, instead of uttering' Voulez vous enlever les pieds du table, chere Madame, find the words coming out as: 'N'oubliez pas les cocktails au coucher du soleil!' (don't forget the cocktails on the roof at sunset!)
The fact is that I cannot tell Madame Vielle to remove her feet. It is impossible. I, who am far too brave for my own good in all other circumstances cannot do it.
My dear friend Jeremiah in London tells me there is help at hand in the form of someone one can ask advice about such things in the Spectator?