Photo: Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection
"The way you eat a sandwich is so elegant"
Long ago, when I was a young student and traveled, a Frenchman said this to me. He was not my boyfriend or interested in becoming my boyfriend or even interesting in just having sex with a cheerful American. He was dating one of the most beautiful people on the planet, a woman who was snuggled up on his arm like a tall, dark luxurious human stole. What the two of them were doing at a student cafeteria, I will never understand. And yet, as we stood together at the counter, strangers eating our ham-and-cheeses, he noticed a habit I had developed of taking very small bites off the huge long hunk of bread and wiping all the little flakey crumbs that showered down onto my chin with a napkin. Twenty years later, when I think of this comment, a little sunset still glows inside me. Because—and this is a little embarrassing—I had worked at sandwich eating. Eating a sandwich in France is the European equivalent of eating a large drippy log-size burrito, due the size of thick baguettes and the overuse of butter. I wanted it to do to it with a wee less glop and a wee more class.