6 p.m.: We fly over the battlefields of Verdun, where 350,000 of our countrymen died fighting the brutal German invaders. What is this? Jean points out a crowd of German pig-dog tourists. Enraged, we throw bottles, cabbages, and the contents of our chamber pots at them. Ha! Ha! Suddenly, and without warning, our balloon descends. Horrors! I recognize Président Pommefrite and Chancellor Erwtenzup of Germany. They are very filthy and very angry. They shout and shake their fists at us. We also notice French soldiers firing at us. Jean opines that perhaps we should ascend quickly. Stirred to action, I increase the flame. Our balloon fills with hot air and we leave them far below. Jean and I are so upset by the whole incident that we delay dinner by a full hour.
14 November, 10 a.m.: We find ourselves over the town of Amiens. Jean informs me that Jules Verne used to be its mayor. He astounds me with the information that he had been reading Verne lately. So, that’s what he has been doing with his afternoons. I thought he was cheating on his mistress.
Noon: We reach the town of Calais on the English Channel. We commemorate our successful journey across France with a simple meal of French bread, onion soup, salade Niçoise, and shrimp scampi. We examine the looming channel, but are not frightened.
3 p.m.: A great jolt rouses Jean and me from our naps. What has annoyed us? Oh, our basket has smashed to bits the radar of a French destroyer. “Vive la France!” we amiably cheer. But incredibly, the sailors shout angrily back. Jean suggests that we quickly leave those clods. I once again increase the size of the flame and we climb back into the clouds.
The sailors fire their rifles and the ship’s big guns at us. Boom! But they cannot see us as we are hiding in the clouds and have broken their radar dish. We shout our apologies to our countrymen and fellow adventurers. We toss down cases of caviar and our best champagne to make up for our faux pas. However, this noble gesture does not appease them. Strange to say, they are becoming even angrier. The lack of manners in our navy appalls Jean and me.
6 p.m.: We are over Dover, England. Hurrah! The great race is coming to an end. We see a great crowd below us. It cheers us wildly, so ours must be the first balloon. The throng includes the Queen and most of the Royal family. We also notice an enormous number of police and soldiers. No doubt, they are there to protect us from our enthusiastic admirers.
Jean and I drink several toasts to England, to the Queen, and to a successful race. I stand up and stagger towards the lever to lower the flame. However, I trip on Jean and fall with all my weight on the lever. Instead of lowering the flame, I shut it off completely. We fall precipitously and hit the ground with a squish.
We dust ourselves off and march proudly towards the Queen. For some reason she appears to be upset. However, we attribute her emotion to the passion of the moment. We present her with the first Chardonnay bottle of the season.
But, the Queen, she is not thankful. No, she accuses us of murdering her Corgi. What dog, we ask? “The one under your balloon,” she cries.
Before we think to apologize, ill-mannered British policemen clasp handcuffs on us and lead us away. We hear behind us German and French voices arguing vociferously for the right to arrest us. Their argument appears to be escalating into a brawl. We shrug our shoulders.
* * *
“Bah! Monsieur le reporter, the food here in this jail is horrible! But yes, I have been without Dom Perignon for three days! Why are these stupid English treating me this way? Can it be that they do not care that I won the Chardonnay race?
“Monsieur, tell my friends to hurry and get me out of here. The Tour d’Artichoke starts next week! Sacre bleu!”
I hope you enjoyed this chapter from my book. Please let me know what you thought of it. Thank you.
Paul De Lancey, The Comic Chef, Ph.D.
We’re French and You’re Not, my cookbook, Following Good Food Around the World, with its 180 wonderful recipes, my newest novel, Do Lutheran Hunks Eat Mushrooms, a hilarious apocalyptic thriller, and all my other books, are available on amazon.com.