Tuesday, June 09, 2009

No Wine with Your Lamb, Mr. President?

This is how the Associated Press describes the Presidential family’s night out in Paris on Saturday:
When dining out Saturday night at a no-star bistro, La Fontaine de Mars, the presidential party was served water, Coke and table wine to accompany foie gras, lamb and steak with shallots, and paid for meals “like any client,” said owner Jacques Boudon. “It's just what they wanted.”
Table wine? This is not what a waiter from the restaurant said on French television. What he said was “pas de vin”: no wine. The waiter Gabriel de Carvalho is quoted in this French-language AFP report saying the same thing:
They were very happy. They said that they had had a “wonderful meal.” The President was extremely nice with the staff. He had the leg of lamb and an île flottante [for dessert]. No wine, just water.
Jacques Boudon, the owner of La Fontaine de Mars, is cited in the French weekly Le Journal du Dimanche on the same subject. The relevant passage bears close comparison with the AP report, which also cites Boudon as source. It reads as follows:
Foie gras, steak, lamb, strawberries and coca-cola… If the Obamas decided to sample French cuisine last night, they skipped the wines. “Barack Obama does not drink wine,” Jacques Boudon whispers…
Oddly enough, in a recent interview with the French cable news channel iTélé, Obama mentioned “the wine” as one of the things he “loves about France.” (On the iTélé interview, see my article here.)

It could be, of course, that this episode means nothing at all and that Boudon’s conclusion that “Barack Obama does not drink wine” is an overstatement. Perhaps the President simply did not want wine on that particular evening. But if the AP was going to go the trouble of reporting on the President’s dinner menu, why does it not report what Boudon and Carvalho in fact said on the matter? Why does it report precisely the contrary of what they said?