We stopped midday at a pizzeria, where I ordered a salade Niçoise and my companion ordered. Pizza Napolitana. We were sitting at a sidewalk table, but I heard the waitress yell the orders to the cook, and then I heard the cook yell something incomprehensible back. Before long a different waiter was at our table, with the menus again: who ordered the pizza?
We straightened that out, and then he apologized, and said Cook couldn't make a Napolitana, we could have any other pizza. Why can't we have a Napolitana, I not unreasonably wanted to know. The waiter mumbled something I couldn't catch about not having something. I hardly understood his French and switched to Italian:
Cos'e che non c'e nella cucina? What is it the kitchen doesn't have?
Acciughe, the waiter admitted. He doesn't have any anchovies.
What, no anchovies? And he's going to give me a salade Niçoise? What kind of a Niçoise will that be, with no anchovies?
Well, the waiter said, you could have something else on it…
What's going to replace anchovies? Nutella, maybe? Cornichons?
In the end I acquiesced, of course, and yet another waiter showed up, to set before me the anchovyless salad, with bright yellow kernels of corn strewn through it.
Wait a minute, I said, this is a salade Niçoise? Where are the anchovies?
The waiter looked at the salad, first with sudden interest, then with total dismay. He started to carry the salad away.
Wait! Where are you going with my salad?
It isn't finished, he said, I'm taking it back to the kitchen…
No! Wait! Bring it back! The kitchen, it doesn't have any anchovies!
I see that, he said, it doesn't have any anchovies, they forgot them, I'll take it back…
No! You don't understand! There… are… no… anchovies… in… the… kitchen!
He brought the salad back and set it down, smiling. Ah, he said. I see. No anchovies.