Crème Brûlée or Lemon Meringue Pie?

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Eric B.

2008 readings

113

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It’s not complicated, it always happens in exactly the same way. We’re in a restaurant with a few good friends. As usual, we’ve had the fillet of duck breast in chestnut honey with new potatoes and a parcel of green beans. The Saint-Émilion was perfect even if a bit chilled, the service was impeccable and the volume of the pleasant background music controled to within a quarter of a decibel. We’ve been talking about vacations in Argentina, we’ve laughed at a load of old jokes, and we have of course bad-mouthed our neighbors and other work colleagues. The evening has ended with everyone agreeing that there is no good hairdresser to be found anywhere in the town anymore, no, there really isn’t.

That’s when the waiter arrives and asks us, “Will you be having a dessert?” That’s when we look at each other, watching to see who will give in first. Eyes and mouths growing wider, we all reply as one, “Er... let’s see the menu!” And the waiter asked the question in the future tense, not the conditional. Do we really have any choice? 

The menus arrive. We skim through the lines with a little smile in anticipation of some indulgence for our tastebuds even if there are subsequent digestive disadvantages, and all at once, everyone caves in. Without even two lines between them, we read:
* Crème brûlée................................................... € 5.90
* Lemon meringue pie.........................................€ 5.10 

There, in our brains, the left hemisphere is going through a terrible process of agonising, while the right hemisphere has gone into a total meltdown of hilarity. Because this question which it now behoves us to answer, that is, “Crème brûlée or lemon meringue pie?” is not to be taken lightly. It’s not like those stupid questions “Tea or coffee?”, “Beatles or Rolling Stones?”, “The mother or the child?”, “Resistance or collaboration?” Those sort of questions that fashion magazines force upon us every day. Let’s not get into philosophical arguments like that! There are restaurants which have the delicacy, one could say refinement, to offer only one of these two wonderful desserts. Such respectable establishments thereby spare the clientele a lot of torture. But nowadays, good taste is an attribute very few can claim to possess.


There is no doubt that the crème brûlée is better. But can we be sure about that? Is that statement not just a bit too dogmatic? On the other hand, the pie is less expensive. Yes, but on the cream and only on the cream, there is the little crust of caramel. That always outweighs the meringue, however delicious the latter may be. Right, but the pie is made with a fruit, so you only have another four fruits or vegetables to find for your daily quota. And then cream is fattening, but they say that pastry is too, so...
In short, there follows five minutes of mental torture, with our nails becoming noticeably shorter, before the waiter returns. “Have you decided?” And the reply goes, “Well, yes, Francis, as usual we’ll have the crème brûlée and the lemon meringue pie as well.”

These days our stomachs really do not have an easy time of it.

Translated by Wendy Cross

113

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