Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Fleur de Lis

The last time we went to Fleur de Lis for pizza, it was also during December. I know that because it led to my thinking that during December, even ordinary events seem “Christmasy”. I find myself wondering what December would be like if there weren’t a major holiday dominating it: the weather getting colder, the days getting shorter, and no lights, decorations, special music or general feeling that the month is headed toward something. Even if you don’t celebrate Christmas, if you live in the U.S and don’t live in a cave, you can’t avoid the way other people’s Christmas shapes the month.

Before you tell me that December would be like January, I should remind you I live in southeast Louisiana. January 6 is the start of the Carnival season, so we change our red and green wreaths for purple, green and gold, replace “Jingle Bells” with Al Johnson singing “Carnival Time” and keep right on partying. Besides, in January, the days get longer. By the end of the month, that nice cozy feel that late December has to it is disappearing.

But I’m getting sidetracked. I meant to write about the Fleur de Lis. It bills itself as a “family restaurant - children welcome”, but when I first started going there in the 70’s it was to drink with friends. You probably have a bar/pub/restaurant like it somewhere in your town: a place that apparently hasn’t been remodeled since it was built and looks like it wouldn’t pass a health inspection unless the inspector arrived accompanied by a guide dog and holding out a palm, but that the locals all know it and fill it up in droves because the food is good and the drink is better.

The Fleur de Lis is a midcentury modern building (it opened in 1946) with stucco walls painted pink  and a neon flamingo lighting up the front. Inside it’s dark, and the acoustic tiles on the ceiling have been stained by decades of smoke before smoking was banned in restaurants here a few years back. The chrome and vinyl seats look like they could be the originals.

The menu consists of pizza, pizza, and oh, yes, pizza. (Well, there is also something on the menu called pickled eggs.) The pizza is rectangular in shape, with a thin but chewy crust, the way I like it. As the restaurants owners tell the story:

Fleur de Lis was out of town on a gravel road, back in 1946, when my family bought it. It was a cocktail lounge at that time . . .
My grandmother decided to make a small pizza as an appetizer. It was enjoyed so much by the customers she began to sell them. Then she realized they needed to make a larger size. The small pizza was made in pie pans she brought from home. So she brought a cookie sheet and the "square" pizza we are famous for was born. Of course the pizza is actually a rectangle cut into small squares, but everyone loves to refer to them as a square pizza, which is just fine with us.
My parents began to run the restaurant in the 80's. Their goal was  to make it a family restaurant where families are welcome to bring their children; an aspect still important to us today.

So Saturday we went there for pizza again. It was my turn to treat. I didn’t have cash on me, and it turned out (I had forgotten) that they don’t take credit cards, but they do take checks.  We had the large “Round the World”, with no pepperoni on my half and anchovies (for me) on the side. The total tab was under $15.

I think we need to make it a December tradition. 

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