The reason that I called this “Haute Cuisine” is because of some of the food that we had in Belgium. After we had arrived in Belgium and settled in, it was time to look around, see what was going on, and what was available. Some of the fellows found that over on one end of the airfield; just across the fence, an enterprising Belgium farmer had turned his house into a café. In the evenings we would drive down in our jeep, jump the fence and go into his house for dinner. Compared to the food in England, the meal that we could get with this farmer was outstanding. It consisted of steak, not really a good steak, by Texas standards, but fresh meat at the very least. We could get, in season, sliced fresh tomatoes, onions, a good quality of Belgium bread ( which to the farmer was probably a daily staple, but to us a delicious treat) french fries, done very, very well, and a good brew of Belgium beer. Many, many evenings we went over there to eat. It was a delight. The meat was not gourmet quality. It was a little tough, a little stringy and a little dark, but very edible and we liked it.
When we first began going to this café, there were a number of horses in the yard. After a few weeks, we noted that the number of horses had dwindled considerably! It did not take a Phi Beta Kappa or a genius to figure out what we were being fed. This farmer was feeding us horsemeat! But, to be honest and in all candor, it was good. The knowledge that we were eating a horse didn’t stop us from going back many, many times to enjoy a good meal. That’s what you call “Haute Cuisine.” (“Horse Cuisine?”) My next example of “Haute Cuisine” occurred very soon after I arrived in Belgium. During the war I had not had a leave of any kind, except for one, two, or three days because of planes being unable to fly, but not an extended leave of ten days or more. In August or September 1945, I was given a free trip to the Riviera in the south of France on the Mediterranean coast. My hotel, Hotel Martinez, was on the outskirts of Cannes, France, right in the middle of the Riviera. I was flown to Cannes by military aircraft. Arriving in Cannes, I was taken to the Hotel Martinez right on the beach of the Mediterranean. The front of the hotel was probably no more than one hundred, fifty to two hundred yards from the water. In front of the hotel was a white picket fence. It enclosed a modest outdoor dining and drinking area with tables and chairs. There was a sidewalk just in front of this picket fence. In front of the sidewalk were palm trees and the beach. At night, in this enclosed outdoor area, they had a platform with a baby grand piano. A man in a tuxedo would play beautiful music. Sitting under the stars listening to this music was magnificent. The moon would come up-the palm trees would sway-the weather was beautiful. It was heaven!
When we checked in, the management had only one requirement:” Don’t throw your beds out the window!” At the time we couldn’t figure out this requirement. Later, it dawned on us that they didn’t want these airmen taking women, inside the hotel, for their various purposes. In the beginning, some of them had thrown their beds out the windows to accommodate their affairs on the ground. We did not have any social contacts with women-there were very few-but, there were crowds of Air Corp officers.
I took a trip to Nice. On the way, I stopped at Eden Roc, a private club with a swimming pool. Air Corp officers were welcome. When I arrived, I saw all these American flyers running around with cameras. I went to see what was so interesting. Near the diving board of this pool was a French girl in a bikini! This was the first bikini any of us had ever seen. She was attracting attention, believe me!
Getting back to the food and the hotel. The dining room was in the ballroom of the hotel. A band played both for lunch and dinner on a band- stand that raised up from the floor. The food was absolutely marvelous. The Martinez was a luxury hotel. As a civilian, I doubt that I could afford to stay there; or even go inside! We had all we could drink, anything we wanted: beer, whiskey, champagnes, wines, of all kinds. The great thing about this is that it was all free! There was no charge for anything. The Army had commissioned this hotel as a rest area for flyers.
Another interesting thing: We would go on the beach, in the afternoon, when the young girls would come to swim. It was amazing that we could see them standing up, taking off all their clothes, putting on their bathing suits and you wouldn’t see a damn thing! It was amazing, the techniques that they used to undress and get into their bathing suits, standing right out in the open. No tent or covering around them. You’d never see a thing. We were always amazed at that. We’d go there and just gawk
There was P-38 Fighter base near Cannes. Every afternoon about 3:00 p.m. there’d be several P-38's that would come screaming overhead, buzz the beach and do a pull-up over the hotel. We could almost tell what time it was by when they’d come and buzz us. The Riviera was what you’d imagine it to be. It’s one of the most beautiful places on the face of this Earth. The food was some of the finest that I had ever eaten in my life. Thus: “Haute Cuisine.”