..crisp golden cannonballs of carbohydrate.

..crisp golden cannonballs of carbohydrate.

Which is John Baxter’s description of roast potatoes, one of the items he serves up for Christmas dinner at his French in-laws’ house. The main course is a roast suckling pig, which proves to be too long for the oven. He tells his wife to call Jean-Pierre. Why, she says, he can’t boil an egg.

“But he’s a surgeon.”


“This is a surgical problem.”

And so it is, and fortunately Jean-Pierre is already out of bed this early in the morning, putting together one of the toys his children got for Christmas. Baxter begins to explain his problem and Jean-Pierre interrupts him halfway through.

“OK, I get it…Do you have a scalpel–I mean, a sharp knife? Not one of those Psycho things. Something about the length of a table knife but with a good point…Turn the patient…er, pig over. See where the large vertebrae at the front change size and become the smaller ones of the spine?…”

Jean-Pierre walks Baxter through a procedure that ends with being able to fold Pascal (Baxter names the pig, naturellement) back on himself, thereby fitting on the top rack in the oven.

“Congratulations,” Jean-Pierre said. “You’ve just performed intervertebral separation of the lumbar spine. Without anesthesia, admittedly, and without a medical license, but still, a considerable achievement.”

Only in France. Chapters spent deciding on the Christmas menu and shopping for ingredients are interspersed with Baxter’s travels through the world, life, and food, and you will find equally delightful scenes throughout. Enjoy! I sure did, especially the vicarious experience of sitting down to that meal. Recommended.

Book Review Monday Chatter

Dana View All →

Author and founder of Storyknife.org.

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