Frehel Diaries: The Speigelman Bible and the Elvis Diet
"Lying in wait, set to pounce on the blank page,
are letters up to no good,
clutches of clauses so subordinate
they'll never get away." excerpted from the "The Joy of Writing" by Wislawa Szymborska

He returns to pick me up and take me to lunch at his parents house. His daughter is in the car, fresh from horseback riding. We pass by a church on the way to his parents house. He remarks that we have been rather bad, having not been to church since we have arrived in Brittany. I say "Je suis une Juive" with rather more emphasis than even I expected. There is a moment of silence, when I realize what I may, or may not have done. After all the Sauvage knew I was a Jew, but his daughter didn't. An American girl who can barely speak French is one thing, but an American JEW who can barely speak French is another. Luckily, we all start laughing, and it was one of those odds moment of strange connection when language didn't seem to be a barrier. The only other times those connections seem to occur lately were when the Sauvage asked about American TV shows. Did I know Starsky and Hutch? Dallas? The Dukes of Hazzard? CHiPs? And all I could think was "You hate Americans, but you like CHiPs? CHIPS? Have you no decency, sir? At long last, have you no decency?"

We get to his parents house, and I settle down with my journal, as I usually do now as no one will speak to me nor would I be able to understand them even if they did. His parents regard silently but with palpable disapproval, and I can see that this yet another nail in my coffin. The Sauvage calls it my Bible, as I carry it everywhere, and I realize he isn't too far off. If there is anything close to a religion I have, it's writing. This insane faith that the scribbling in this journal will mean, something, anything, to some invisible someone that will justify the lost relationships, the late nights, the experiences missed just to jot down that last thought, sentence, paragraph. And while I don't believe in God, my faith in the written word is near epic, and I will sacrifice everything, including the generosity of this family, to it.

And maybe that is what makes them nervous about the Bible, not only that I am writing something they can't understand, but something I can not even explain. That it is some sort of silent trap. But how much about them can I give away without understanding the language? Most likely more than they are comfortable with, and more than even I expect.

But for now, it is a fairly standard lunch in Brittany which involves:

The First Course: A salad of some kind in a vinaigrette and vegetables-usually three dishes all coming from the back garden
The Second/Main Course: Fish, usually, or possibly meat accompanied by potatoes
Third Course: A variety of cheeses-usually if an American is present, there is a great show about the fact these are UNpasteurized cheeses
Fourth/Final Course: Dessert, which usually involves fresh fruit with yogurt, but can also involve freshly made crepes or tarte tatin, accompanied with coffee

If you think the French like butter, the Bretons absolutely WORSHIP it. While the French will butter their bread or put a pat on veggies, the Bretons drown everything in huge Titanic iceberg sized hunks of it. Had Elvis lived long enough, he would have bought a house in Brittany and built a new church to worship at the high altar of fat. Not only would he have discovered a whole new milieau of fattening foods, but he would also could have revolutionized their cuisine. Thus, in such a universe,when a true gourmande traveled to Brittany, he would eat moules, coquilles St Jacques , caramels sale, and fried peanut butter sandwiches.

I eat, for me, quite a bit, but the Bretons are hardy and the Sauvage always heaps my plate with food, which I barely manage to finish(but finish it I must lest I insult his parents even more). The Sauvage punctuates the end of each meal with claims that I eat "like a bird." If I eat "like a bird" here, I think in NYC he would think that I eat like the shadow of ant. I eat more in one meal here than I would eat in a day and a half in NYC.

After such a butter slathered meal, the Sauvage lights up a cigarette while his mother brews a pot of decaf coffee "for his heart" she explains. Right, because what is going to keep him from having another stroke before he's 50 is the decaf coffee. It is a diet, I think, fit only for The King.

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