Paris to the Moon is another franco-phony, one of those books with titles like A Year in Provenance, etc. Gopnik trained to be an art historian, and now he writes for the New Yorker, which is like being an art historian without the research skills: you can expect a load of howlers like his tale about how he introduced the French to take-out. Bonjour? Ever notice those signs all over Paris that say “Plats à emporter?”
Here’s another: Gopnik goes to Rungis, the food market outside of Paris, along with Alice Waters of Chez Panisse in Berkeley, and someone he describes as a “vegetable scholar,” PhTurnip and all. Here is a conversation:
Vegetable Scholar: “Why is it that no one any longer grows green asparagus? When was it that people went over to white asparagus?”
Asparagus Man: “You know, I would say that what you’ve said is the exact contrary to the truth.”
V. S: “What do you mean?”
A. M.: “ Well, it is my experience that everyone grows green asparagus now. […] It has a much greater decorative effect.”
Now here’s the same conversation, as Gopnik sees it:
“Why is it that no one any longer grows green asparagus? When was it that people went over to white asparagus?” The man gave him an incredulous look and then said, in the beautiful clear French of the Ile-de-France, “You know, I would say that what you’ve said is the exact contrary to the truth.” It was a perfect Parisian tone of voice — not disputatious, just suggesting a love of the shared pursuit of the truth, which, unfortunately, happens not to be in your possession right now.
Antoine made the right response. He raised his eyebrows in polite wonder while smiling only on the left side of this face, an expression that means, “How greatly I respect the vigor of your opinions, however much they may call to mind the ravings of a lunatic.”
What planet is this Gopnik from? White and green asparagus are the same plant, only the white ones are grown without direct light. Il est pas croyable, ce con — if you'll forgive my beautiful clear French.
[12-24-2003; last revised 7-26-2012]