Le Quick Lunch
Back when I was sixteen, I was planted in a girls' boarding school in Cannes, France while the rest of my family swanned around the Mediterranean, following my father's ship. They got to visit several ports in Italy, Monaco, Greece and France while I got to know the stern headmistress of my school, Madame Blay, very well indeed, and usually not in a good way.
Madame Blay (pronounced like Captain Bligh of Mutiny on the Bounty; we students always felt that was apt) knew that girls of sixteen are a force to be reckoned with and that American girls of that age are even worse. She was correct. There were about ten of us Americans in the school and we were determined to get into trouble, hopefully trouble involving French boys. We smoked cigarettes after lights-out, climbed down the tall French shutters to escape the school at night, corrupted the French girls with our antics and generally added headaches to Madame Blay's days, and sometimes her nights.
On the few occasions when we were authorized to leave the school - chaperoned, of course, by one of the spinster teachers whose job it was to repel advances from all males - we found a wonderful little lunch spot with bright yellow awnings in the Vieux Port called "Le Quick Lunch." It served hamburgers and Cokes at exorbitant prices, perfect for homesick American girls enjoying sunny a day out. We'd spend the morning on the beach, then cajole Mademoiselle Dallier to let us get a bite to eat at Le Quick Lunch. She tut-tutted and disapproved of the food but we begged and, if we hadn't been too obnoxious on the beach, she would eventually agree. We would stuff ourselves with nostalgia and return to school ready for the next prank.
I still think of Le Quick Lunch every time I make myself a lunch that doesn't take long. I may be looking out a the sparkling water of the San Francisco bay instead of the deep blue of the Mediterranean but the memory is as clear and bright as the sunshine was on those long-ago days.
This time, I was in a mood for pasta. I boiled some water and, while the pasta was cooking, softened a clove or two of minced garlic in a nice knob of butter. When the pasta was nearly done (angel hair takes just a few minutes), I threw a generous handful of frozen peas into the pasta water and strained them out together, tossing them in the garlicky pan. Topped with a snowfall of ParmReg, it made a lovely quick lunch, maybe not as decadent as hamburgers and Cokes on the Riviera but satisfying nonetheless.