Mozart, on the other hand, was something of a slacker who seemed to live in a permanent state of near-exhaustion. A mutual friend who knew him well told me that he only produced about one painting a year and devoted most of his energy to his real passion: scouring flea markets for cheap ceramic vases from the 1940s, of which he had amassed an enormous collection.
I had first heard of him when I was living in
Florence and my close friend, Carl Selph, who was planning a vacation in Austria, was asked by a cranky American art historian named Robert Wolf if he could possibly give Mozart a ride to . Unfortunately, this did not fit into Carl’s plan, and I heard no more about the Brazilian Mozart until I met him a few years later through a mutual friend in Salzburg . Paris
Mozart once invited me to dinner at his apartment in a public housing project (HLM) in a distant and dodgy arrondissement, and on the appointed evening, at the appointed hour, I showed up at the door of the sinister looking building at the same time as the other invited guest: Lotte Eisner, a great authority on German Expressionist Cinema, whom I knew by sight from the Paris Cinémathèque.
The first year I worked in
, I lived almost opposite the Palais de Chaillot where the Cinémathèque was then located, and spent many pleasant hours there. It provided cheap and interesting entertainment, and I was somewhat starved for movies because I had been living in Florence which was then a kind of cinematic backwater and where all American movies were dubbed into Italian, often hilariously so. Among the films I had seen there were Chi Ha Paura di Virginia Woolf? and Che Fine Ha Fatto Baby Jane? And I loved the re-release of Gone With Wind - Via Col Vento - with a scene in which Mammy had to say “Avanti, avanti, Signorina Rossella!.” instead of “Hurry, hurry Miss Scarlett!” I don’t know how she managed to get it all out, and with a southern accent to boot. Paris
On weekends, I would frequently go to the two p.m. feature at the Cinémathèque, then the four p.m. feature, go home to have a bite of dinner, and then return for the eight p.m. feature, and when there was something really good on, stay for the ten p.m. feature. Between showings, while waiting in the lobby, I often saw the Holy Trinity of the Cinémathèque chatting together in the middle of a blue cloud of Gauloise smoke: Henri Langlois, its founder, a passionate cinephile who saved thousands and thousands of films; his portly mistress, Mary Meerson, and tiny, gnarled Lotte Eisner, absorbed in conversation.
Lotte, in addition to being a critic and historian, was also the Chief Archivist of the Cinémathèque, the one who brought order to Langlois’s creative disorder. Everyone knew these three personages and I had seen Lotte many, many times, but had never spoken to her until we found ourselves on the doorstep of Mozart Pela’s building, waiting for our host to appear. We rang the bell and waited and waited and waited. We sat down on the stoop and began to chat. Lotte theorized that Mozart was probably in the flat, but felt too fatigued to entertain, so was ignoring the bell. Finally we gave up and decided to leave. I asked Lotte if I might treat her to a meal if we could find an eating place somewhere nearby and she said that sounded like a good idea. We made our way out of the project toward a lighted street and found an unpromising looking brasserie. By that time we were both famished. And that is probably why the omelet I ordered seemed the best I had ever eaten. It was fluffy and light, golden brown on the outside and smooth and creamy on the inside. We had a delightful evening. And when I accompanied Lotte back to the Métro, she invited me to come for tea at her flat in
the following Sunday, an invitation I was happy to accept. Neuilly
On Sunday, when I left my flat in the Marais, a bustling neighborhood with many shops, I almost stopped at a florist to buy some flowers for Lotte, but then decided that I would probably be able to find a bouquet once the Métro had taken me to
The talk over tea that afternoon was, of course, all about movies, and I mostly just listened. It was 1968 or 69 and Herzog was at the beginning of his career. Later I learned what a great influence Lotte had on his filmmaking and how devoted he was to her. In 1974, when she was dangerously ill, he walked from
Munich to to show his faith that she would recover, which she did. He published a diary of the trip, On Walking in Ice is the title of the English translation. Lotte is also the voice from the whirlwind in his 1974 masterpiece Aguirre – The Wrath of God. Paris
Over the years, I have perfected my omelet making technique and on the mornings when I get it right, I think my omelet is probably just as good as the one I devoured with Lotte in that louche corner of Paris so many years ago.
I start with an eight-inch non-stick skillet and about a teaspoon of olive oil (which I have come to prefer to butter) over medium-high heat. I break into a bowl two organic eggs (that, courtesy of our butcher, we get from local hens), add a splash of tap water, a large pinch of salt, a bit of freshly ground pepper, and beat vigorously with a fork. . When the eggs are thoroughly mixed and well-aerated and the oil is hot, I dump them in the skillet and turn down the heat to low. I toss in some fresh chopped chives, parsley, and tarragon from our garden, sprinkle a heaping tablespoon of shredded gruyère on top and wait until I see that the underside of the omelet has begun to turn a light golden color. Then with a very wide spatula I gently fold it over, and over once again, until it actually looks like an omelet. Another couple of minutes and it is ready to serve.
Chopped herbs from the garden
Tools and ingredients
Ready to be eaten