Antoine nodded at another merchant across the way.
“Now, this man grows excellent asparagus,” he whispered. “It’s interesting. Two hundred, a
hundred and fifty years ago, it was always green asparagus; now the demand is for white
He went up to the grower and said, in French, “Why is it that no one any longer grows green
asparagus? When was it that people went over to white asparagus?” The man gave him an
incredulous look, and then said in the beautiful clear French of the Ile-de-France, “You
know, I would say that what you’ve just stated is the exact contrary of the truth.” It was a
perfect Parisian tone of voice—not argumentative, just suggesting a love of the shared pur-
suit of the truth, which unfortunately happens not to be in your possession right now.
Antoine made the right response. He raised his eyebrows in polite wonder while smiling only
on the left side of his face—an expression that means how greatly I respect the vigor of your
opinions; however, they call to mind the ravings of a lunatic. “What do you mean?” he
“Well, it is my experience that everyone grows green asparagus now. It’s all you see for
decorative plats, that touch of green. In the magazines, for instance, among the fashionable
chefs, it’s all you see—green asparagus. It has a much greater decorative effect. It’s
“Ah, yes, for decorative effect,” Antoine agreed calmly. Everybody won.