The figurative language of Edward Chisholm…

Reading time: About 2 minutes

I like to share interesting pieces of figurative language I encounter in my reading. I write today about a series of metaphors from Edward Chisholm…

I first heard about writer Edward Chisholm on my favourite food podcast, Milk Street.

Chisholm is an Englishman who graduated from the School of Oriental and African Studies, London, in 2010. Soon after, he moved to Paris where he lived for a time in abject poverty and did many low-level jobs, including bar work, museum security, film extra, teaching English, and, most importantly, waiting tables.

But he started waiting tables — or, at least, trying to wait tables — before he could speak the language, leading to many predictable and often funny circumstances. His book, A Waiter In Paris, explores the underbelly of restaurant work in Paris.

Edward Chisholm also has a stylish eye and ear for figurative language. Here are my favourite examples:

  • The waiters in their smart black suits and bow ties are looking professional, busy — and distinctly French — as they scurry about handing out menus, taking orders, fielding questions and finally disappearing, like assassins, or monks, through the small swinging door at the back of the dining room.
  • From the tables, light chatter, the delicate clinking of cutlery on ceramic, and expensive perfumes wafting upwards to the world of the waiters, who soar above with giant silver trays, the white cloths draped across their forearms trailing behind them like an aeroplane’s vapour trail.
  • His eyes are almost black, like a ferret’s, and he’s poorly shaved. He’s older, late thirties perhaps; a career waiter, with a round head, weak chin and an untrustworthy mouth.
  • As he takes in my cheap suit, his mouth pulls taut like someone who has just drunk sour milk.
  • The carpet that covers the dark wooden parquet floor is thick and a deep red like the hostesses’ lipstick.
  • Outside the frozen air of Paris hits me in the face like a fist.
  • The Sunday service never lets up; it’s all day, as wave upon wave of customers scramble up the steps as if they were a Normandy beachhead demanding to be fed.
  • He [the sommelier] has the demeanour of a doctor on call as he speaks to the tables. He is not rushed; they know that he is bestowing a great honour upon them by sharing his knowledge.
  • The directeur draws the bottle out of the rack as if he were removing a stock of plutonium from a nuclear reactor.
  • With every occasional sweep of the [windshield] wipers the city reveals itself like a greying watercolour before blotting itself out again.
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