Sphinx, Anyone?


In Balzac’s Omelette, Anka Muhlstein writes that even though restaurants were flourishing in Paris during Balzac’s time, that was not the case outside of Paris. She relates an incident at Saint-Cloud.




One day when Balzac and Gozlan were visiting the area, they had a sudden craving for food and stopped at an inn. They were served with mutton cutlets and a golden mountain of smelts. But they were still hungry. Sadly, no leg of lamb, no chicken fricassee, no veal fricandeau. “And do you have any sphinx?” Goslan asked the astonished waiter, who went down to the kitchen to inquire. “Sphinx? Did you really ask for Sphinx?” Balzac asked his companion. “Well, yes,” he replied, “if you want a Paris déjeuner in a Saint-Cloud eatery, you might as well ask for a sphinx.” The waiter came back up and announced that he was sorry but there was no sphinx left.



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