Our favorite restaurant was broken into recently. It’s a tiny little place in a tiny little town called Lauris. It’s not the type of restaurant that would be mentioned in any guidebook, and it doesn’t have any Michelin stars. The decor isn’t fancy; there aren’t any little footstools next to a lady’s chair to hold her handbag. From time to time, they take the artwork down and put up a collection of paintings from a local artist. And the food isn’t pretentious; just fresh ingredients prepared simply and never served in the shape of a ridiculous little tower surrounded by a moat of sauce. I tend to order the same thing every time, though the special of the day is always good. Yolande takes the reservations and waits on tables, while her husband cooks. She knows us by name and always gives us a good table, and he always comes out from the kitchen to say hello to us, a gesture that draws glances from the other tables, who wonder who we are and make us feel like big shots.
We love it.
Last year, we threw a little surprise party for Johann’s grandparents’ anniversary there. Our neighbor recently bought a limosine in an effort to break into Provence’s tourism industry, so he offered to pick them up in it. They arrived in the limosine to the cheers of friends and family, who were just as surprised by the limo as Marco and Maryse were by the crowd waiting for them at the restuarant.
It’s not often that one sees a limosine in this area, so its appearance was talked about for days afterward in Lauris. Yolande later told us that she went to the café in the village a couple of days after the party and was barraged with questions. Who was in the limo the other day? Was it Johnny Hallyday? I heard it was Nicholas Sarkozy! Probably some American – Johnny Depp lives in the South of France, you know. “Oh, I can’t keep track of who comes in and out of the restaurant,” she said, airily. The speculation continued as she finished her coffee and left, laughing all the way home.
So we were more than a little dismayed to hear that these nice people had been burgled. “When we heard the restaurant had been robbed, our first thought was of the paintings,” Yolande said. “They weren’t insured, so it would have been a total loss for the artist, but…” She gestured to the walls. The paintings were still there. So what did they take? The stereo? The cash box? The champagne? Some of the more expensive wines? Nope. The tip jar, a twelve-pack of beer and the cheese tray (with cheese). That’s it. When I relayed this story to my sister, she found it more than a little hard to believe. “Those were our least favorite things about France,” she said. “The service and the stinky cheese. Why would someone steal those? I mean, the beer I understand, but I don’t know what kind of person would go to all the trouble of breaking into a restaurant just for a twelver.”
What kind of person, indeed… The beer and cheese strongly indicate someone from Wisconsin might be to blame. Don’t you think? And when you factor in a jar full of change for playing pinball… Well, I’m looking in your direction, college buddies.