There was a time when Franco was the toast of Rome. He was the head chef of the fine dining Italian restaurant off the Piazza Navona aptly named the Caesar’s Buffet. There was a time when the restaurant was pre-booked by the European cuisine aficionados weeks in advance; there was a time…. That time was past.
Two years ago the owner of the restaurant, Mr. Puccini passed away quietly in his sleep, leaving in his wake a time of disquiet. Santino Puccini, his son, did not like food as much as he liked money. He wanted to add another floor to the restaurant and change the menu to one that suited every palate.
“When you try to please everyone, you please no one! We are the Caesar’s Buffet and not the Piazza Express!” Franco had said in the firmest way he knew but sadly it wasn’t firm enough. Franco had always been a mild mannered man, a lot of his friends would think him non-confrontational and they were right.
“There were two kinds of people,” Laura, his wife would tell him often. “One, who explode and get all the anger out of their system and two, those who implode and constantly slow burn within themselves. But you are the rare third kind, you don’t feel any anger at all!” He would laugh at that elucidation of his personality because he knew that Laura saw the real him.
Laura did know Franco better than anybody and she knew he was hurting terribly since the change happened in the restaurant. Yet, whenever she tried to broach the subject he just brushed it aside like it was just a figment of her imagination.
The new floor came up and with that came another chef to “share the burden” as Santino put it succinctly. Very quickly the other chef became the one in charge and he was just left to do the mundane work. Then came the hard blow when everyone but a few of them did not get a raise and Franco was among the few. The connoisseurs stopped visiting the restaurant that was now full of American tourists. Franco was dying a little everyday but would not speak about it.
Laura noticed their personal relationship change, Franco was depressed most of the time and not the romantic Italian lover she knew.
It was a warm summer night. Laura joined her husband on the patio of their apartment that overlooked the Tiber. Franco was quiet, smoking his pipe and looking out at the river.
“Do you know about the frog experiment Franco?” Laura asked him. Franco looked at her and shook his head, not really interested in the experiment.
“They say when a frog is put into hot water in a saucepan it jumps out but when put in cold water it does not jump out…”
“Laura, anyone would do that! Why would you need an experiment to prove that?”
“Franco, listen to the whole thing. They say that a frog can regulate its body temperature, so when you put a frog into cold water and then very gradually begin to heat the water, the frog does not notice the change but becomes more active in the water to keep its body temperature in tune with the water.”
Franco stopped looking out at the river and turned to Laura, interested.
“The water gets hotter and the frog grows more active till the frog gets tired and cannot regulate the body temperature anymore. The frog dies in the hot water. It has spent too much energy trying to deal with a problem that would never go away. It has no energy left to jump out.”
Laura kissed Franco, gave him a tight hug and then walked back into the house allowing Franco to take in the night and his future.
Six months later Franco and Laura invited everyone they knew to the opening of their own restaurant, a fine dining Italian restaurant.They called it, “The Leaping Frog”.