The traditional ceremony and parade that brings cadet school to a close for the year had ended.
It was a warm spring night. The friends and family of the cadets who had filled the grandstand had reluctantly begun to take their leave.
The ceremonial detachment had yet to leave the square. Suddenly, though, there was a commotion as the sounds of “hooray” began to rise from one of the companies. Everyone turned to look at the source of the noise.
The handsome lieutenant of one of the companies was issuing orders, although only those closest to him were able to hear.
“Company, forward march! Pass in review! Band to the front!”
The company leapt to action, shook the ground beneath their feet – the tall, handsome second lieutenant in particular – and began to march. It appeared they were marching with more verve than they had in the parade they had just completed. In front of them, the band began to advance as it played a marching song. The band’s conductor handled his staff with dexterity, throwing it end over end in the air. The bassoons, drums and gongs were close to leaving everyone deaf.
The spectators that had been slowly leaving the grandstand looked on in surprise, retaking their seats as the unannounced parade began.
What was going on? The infectious enthusiasm of the marching soldiers quickly spread to those in the stands who applauded wildly for this extra show, the reasons for which still remained unclear. The parade had particularly excited the young girls in attendance to the point that they hoped the parade of young, handsome and sturdy cadets would never end.
A nickname is born
But the person who turned the most heads and attracted the most admiration was the one who had begun the march and who appeared to be pounding the ground with his long and strong legs: the lieutenant! From now on, he was to be known as the “ladies’ man lieutenant…”
The company returned to the parade ground and completed the march.
The school’s commander awaited their arrival. Unable to understand what the commotion was all about, he had come rushing to the ground.
The ladies’ man lieutenant stopped his company in front of the commander with a sharp order.
He stood to attention in front of the school commander, saluted and provided a report:
“My commander, our company, which was celebrating how our beauty queen has been selected Miss Europe, awaits your orders!”
Appearing to mutter something along the lines of “what the hell is he talking about?” the commander whispered something to those next to him.
The company was ordered to return to its barracks immediately.
Upon the company’s return, the ladies’ man lieutenant was informed that he was being sentenced to a week in the guardhouse!
The spectators, who had watched the parade unaware of anything, only figured out afterward what had just transpired and the reason for the handsome lieutenant’s punishment.
After the ceremony had finished, the company had been put at ease and the stands were just starting to empty, news had filtered through on a small portable radio: Our beauty queen had won the Miss Europe Competition to become the continent’s most beautiful woman!
The news had been greeted by the lads right there with shouts of “hooray.”
If this wasn’t worthy of celebration, what was?
The young and handsome lieutenant immediately prepared his company, sent the band out in front and ordered the victory parade to begin…
Thud… Thud… Thud…
“Different types of beauty” are celebrated in life… The things that give meaning to such beauty are their celebration.
There can be no different types of beauty in the military!
And there can be no celebration!
Beauty in the eye of the mushroom
The young lieutenant who had sent his company off on the march to celebrate this good news, earning himself a week in the guardhouse because of it – as well as the moniker of “ladies’ man” – shared this memory at a party to celebrate his 90th birthday.
We were having a meal at Terres de Truffes in Nice…
Terres de Truffes is not a restaurant that boasts “different types of beauty;” their food is good, but it’s all served on top of mushrooms! It’s a restaurant that even offers a mushroom spirit. It’s got warm decorations and good service. But whatever you eat, it’s got mushrooms… It doesn’t offer any beauty that doesn’t have something to do with fungi…
The year was 2000, and mushroom producers had come together and formed La Compagnie Méditèrraenéenne de Truffes, a firm to promote and sell mushrooms and products containing mushrooms. They opened restaurants in Nice and Paris that exhibited meals containing mushrooms and sold products featuring, you guessed it, mushrooms. What kinds of things were there? Everything, from sauce to dessert and spirits! There were even accessories made with mushrooms…
Our terrine de foie gras, salmon and, for dessert, crème brûlé were all naturally mush
room-based. All of them featured Tuber brumale, a “winter mushroom” that can only be collected between December and March.
It was beautiful…
But not for those searching for different types of beauty.
Experiencing different types of beauty
While sipping our mushroom digestif after the meal, I asked the ladies’ man lieutenant:
“I wonder, how many different types of beauty have you experienced in your life?”
He stopped… He thought… He drifted off…
He made as if he was going to say something…
But he kept his mouth shut!