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Opinion: In Paris, heroes carry espresso

La Rotisserie D'Argent in Paris is one of Scott Simon's favorite restaurants. He recently ate there with his family while on vacation and was impressed by his waiter.
Scott Simon
La Rotisserie D'Argent in Paris is one of Scott Simon's favorite restaurants. He recently ate there with his family while on vacation and was impressed by his waiter.

The news can be so grim some weeks you may want to hear about something happy, even charming. I saw such a scene a few days ago, on vacation with my family in France.

There's a Paris restaurant called Tour D' Argent that's mentioned in the books of Hemingway and Proust, and inspired scenes in the film "Ratatouille," where a rat named Remy comes to live, and cook, in the kitchen.

Just across the street from the Michelin-starred establishment is the Rotisserie D' Argent, which my wife recalls from her student days in Paris. It has red-checked tablecloths, manageable prices, and rotisseries that churn like small Ferris wheels, spinning glistening chickens, filets of salmon, and fat slivers of potatoes that blister to an incandescent bronze.

Sorry to get carried away...

To keep going during COVID, the rotisserie has set up tables not just on, but across the street--on the Left Bank of the Seine, just above the river barges, and strolling, smooching lovers. What transpires is a great show. People order, and servers in bowties wait for red lights to halt traffic, and bustle across the street with grace and purpose. They dash back a few minutes later, hoisting icy metal buckets with bottles of blushing rose wine, and sparkling platters of roasted chicken or fish, spilling not a jot of au jus.

Sometimes, a server shoulders a tray and holds up a hand to hold back a car making a turn. Sometimes, they wave a car through with the sweep of an empty tray, like a matador with a cape.

I ordered an espresso at the end of our meal. Then I thought: do I really want someone to dash back and forth across a busy Paris street just to bring me back of jolt of espresso?

Craving prevailed over caution. Parisians understand.

Nicola(s), our server, nodded as if being entrusted with a mission from General De Gaulle. He waited for a green light to illuminate the crosswalk, dashed into the rotisserie, then out moments later with an espresso sitting on a metal tray like a precious pearl on a velvet pillow. When I called him a hero, he shrugged, which is what heroes do.

The whole scene, the small, great show on a street along the Seine, was a snapshot I will carry in my mind. Even when the world feels tumultuous and even dire, it is possible to find moments of art and delight in our everyday lives.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Scott Simon is one of America's most admired writers and broadcasters. He is the host of Weekend Edition Saturday and is one of the hosts of NPR's morning news podcast Up First. He has reported from all fifty states, five continents, and ten wars, from El Salvador to Sarajevo to Afghanistan and Iraq. His books have chronicled character and characters, in war and peace, sports and art, tragedy and comedy.