Equal Partners
by Roland Ezri

Equal Partners by Roland Ezri

Equal Partners

By Roland Ezri

"Women are the backbone of all societies. They do a substantial part of the work, and play a major role in raising the future generation yet they are largely powerless. The decisions that count are made by men and foisted upon women."

Writings by Roland Ezri

The Second Exodus – Egypt – XCVI. My Years at 12A Rue Khantaret Ghamra – Entertainment (22 of 30)


La Parisiana

La Parisiana was a brasserie. The accent was on beer and mezes (appetizers). It had a large variety of both Egyptian and foreign beers; as well, they had home-made beers and they referred to them as craft beer.

During the day, you could stop for coffee, tea, a sandwich or a soup; you could meet with friends, a date, or a businessman. I previously mentioned that dad was one of the first Egyptian businessmen to do business with Japan. The first time he met with the Japanese representative was over lunch at La Parisiana.

This brasserie was situated right across from the two previously mentioned outdoor cinemas, St. James and Rex. Almost always Nisso took us there after the movies had ended. It was already past 11:00 PM, but Robert and I didn’t care; we actually loved it.

If we were to go to either cinemas, one of us would ask dad, “Est-ce qu’on ira a La Parisiana?” (“Are we going to the Parisiana?”). And without fail, Nessim would smile and say, “Non, on ne peut pas se le permettre.” (No, we can’t afford it). We didn’t get upset. We knew we were going. It was an indispensable ritual!

If there is a heaven, they serve mezzes and beer to the virtuous the way they did at La Parisiana! The mezzes were ordered by sets, and you got 6 different types of appetizers; it could be a meat set, vegetable, or pickled items. One set, of course, was never enough; you ordered another one, and then another, and so on. Nisso was the only one that cared for the beer side of the equation; Fola took half a glass but barely touched it; Robert tasted it and grimaced; I drank some and pretended to like it, but it was bitter like the gall (I still don’t care for beer, it can be so bitter. Why do people bother with it?). In addition to beer, dad ordered a jug of lemonade since it was clear that the other players abhorred the beer he so liked.

The chef there was incredibly inventive with his mezzes; every time we went there, we discovered that new ones have been introduced. However, we had our favorites and demanded them; one of them was Swedish meat balls, I don’t expect to taste the equivalent in my lifetime.

You could also order a meal there, usually a mechoui (grilled meat), or a sandwich. As well, you wouldn’t offend anybody if you drank other alcoholic beverages besides beer.

A funny incident happened one night when we were there. While we were eating, a man came to our table to say hello, it was the representative from Japan. Now, at this point of my life, I had never seen an Asian person except in movies; I was totally taken by surprise and was ready to burst out laughing, but dad shot me a dirty look and I managed to control myself. Mercifully, they exchanged a few brief pleasantries in a tentative English, and that man left.

There the matter would have stayed except that this man drank copious amount of beer; needless to say, he made numerous visits to the washroom; every time he went by, he waved at us; on each subsequent trip, he was less and less steady on his feet. At this point, even Fola had a difficult time keeping a straight face. On one of his expeditions – as it turned out it was the last one – he almost tripped, but was held back by a passing waiter. That was the end of the evening for him; he was given his bill, and after he paid, a taxi was called.

When the taxi came, he walked in our direction intending to say goodbye. At a safe distance, things were fine, but when he came close, the dam burst; I started to laugh, Robert followed, then Fola, then Nisso, and finally, the Japanese guest. Dad apologized, but this man repeated again and again that it was O.K.

The waiter and the taxi driver were also laughing when the matter was explained to them. As a parting shot, the driver said in his lively Arabic, “life is short and difficult; where would we be if Allah didn’t give us the gift of laughter.”

Apparently, this visitor from Japan was not offended at all. As you’ve already been informed, Nessim and Maurice did brisk business with Japan for many years.

This caller from a far-away country promised to come back to revisit the new friends he had made, and, of course, dine again at La Parisiana. But dad never saw him again.

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