Romance may be the domain of the French, but there are some American adages concerning dating—and eating—that I would like to address: to begin with, “there are many fish in the sea,” and “size doesn’t matter.”
As anyone who has nursed a broken heart will know, there may be many fish in the sea, but there’s only one that you want (to eat) on a regular basis: for me, that’s mussels.
And as for the second adage: girls, don’t listen to what they say! Size does matter…just not in the way you think.
Here in America, we are used to “bigger is better,” but I tend to stick to the French philosophy “quality over quantity.” So often in American restaurants when I order mussels (which I often do), they arrive, steaming in a lovely, bubbling broth, and now and again I’ll put one in my mouth, and it’s so large, and, well, flaccid and tasteless, that I think I have a second tongue.
In Normandy, where French mussel culture abounds, the mussels are “tout p’tit.” Little crustaceans packed with the sea’s briny flavor, and hearty in texture—small, and yet a real mouthful. Which proves the more controversial dating adage: “it’s not how big it is; it’s what you do with what you’ve got.”
I started on this tirade because, as you know, my favorite all-you-can-eat mussels place (La Tour) in New York closed earlier this year. My father and I recently went to a little French restaurant just down our street that we’ve walked by for years–Demarchelier. Anyway, as they say in romance, “timing is everything,” and now we’ve gone 4 times in 2 weeks. As it turns out, their moules frites are the best in the city: the broth reeks of delicious thyme, silken with cream, and studded with shallots. And the mussels, like their Norman cousins, are “tout p’tit.”
Which leads me to my newest adage: the mussels should be small; the portion should be big…
For my favorite mussels recipes: Flex!