extra bechamel

There's a creperie around the corner from my apartment, and every couple of weeks, I'll treat myself to one of their Croque Monsieurs. The owner/operator is a swarthy Frenchman, and extremely flirtatious. He'll call my order out unnecessarily loudly (the cook stands right behind him), while giving me an inexplicable wink. I interpret this wink variously as Oh, cherie, the deliciousness that you are in for! or Ne t'en fais pas! I will tell no one of this salty, starchy indiscretion! or We'd be hot in bed together, non?

His wife takes my money at the counter, and encourages me to add an Orangina to my order. I don't, because I can't look at the bulbous bottles without thinking of my husband, who used to pronounce it orange-jī-na, to make me giggle. I feel bad when I don't tip her, but at this point in my life, I can't afford to tip for counter service. She looks and sounds exactly like the woman that played Mary of Guise in Elizabeth, and I'm intimidated by her.

I watch the cook make crepes while I wait. He dispenses batter in perfect circles, and after it firms up slightly, slices bananas for filling. His fingers are so deft and quick that I don't even see the blade move. After the first time I watched him, I looked up the name of the special rake-shaped tool he uses to spread the batter. I was disappointed to learn it's called, predictably enough, a crepe spreader.

The creperie is conveniently located across from a salad restaurant, so if I'd like, I can sit at the window while I eat, and watch better dressed, healthier lunchers meet up to dine on more nutritious fare.

I usually get it to go, instead.

I haven't worked up the nerve to tell them to hold the pickle. I made the mistake once of asking the owner to hold the Bechamel sauce, because I thought it was some kind of mayonnaise. He enthusiastically disabused me of this notion, explaining that it's just flour and milk. When I told him that, in that case, the Bechamel sounded great, actually, he decided I needed extra sauce on my Croque Monsieur. I didn't have the heart to tell him that the standard dosage would be just fine. Now every time I order, he reminds the cook, "Extra Bechamel for mademoiselle!" And winks at me.


I don't want to seem ungrateful or fussy, but I don't want them to waste their pickles, either, particularly if I'm already taxing them for more than my fair share of Bechamel.

I looked up "gherkin" because I seem to remember it has an alternate French name, as well. It does. Cornichon.

Take that, crepe spreader.