pregale, regale

“It’s seven courses,” Arlene said, leaning forward, her eyes widening.

“Not including the little extras,” Jess added. “You know, little hors d’œuvres. Who knows what it might be. But the official first thing is the fish of the day.”

Arlene looked up, raised her palms to the ceiling. “Could be anything!”

“Who knows what they’re catching,” Jess said. “It’s the Spanish coast.” She leaned back on her chair and had a swallow from her class of cava.

“San Sebastian?” I asked.

“Yeah,” Arlene said. “And then – what was it? Naked shrimp?” She turned to Jess.

Jess held up a finger (one moment!), set down her glass, and flicked to an image on her phone. “Unclothed prawn.”

“Well, the clothing is hard to digest,” I offered.

“In two firings, with slight heat stroke and fried head,” she read off her screen.

“What,” I said. I leaned in to look at the image of a printed menu she was holding up.

Just then Maury entered. His gaze settled on the little scene before him. “A feast for the eyes?”

“We’re pregaling James with our trip,” Arlene said, beaming like a flashlight. She held up her glass of cava in a toasting gesture.

“Pregaling,” Maury said.

“Well, sure,” Jess said. “If we had already been there, we’d be regaling him with it. But we haven’t been yet, so it’s in anticipation.”

“Pre,” Arlene added, suppressing a little smile.

“Who’s Gail?” Maury asked drily.

“Who’s that gal…” Jess crooned.

“Why is it regale?” I mused aloud.

“A royal treat?” Arlene said.

“I suppose it might be related to Spanish and Italian regalo, ‘gift’,” I said.

“Yup,” said Jess. She was operating her phone again. It looked like Wiktionary on her screen. “Seems like it all comes ultimately from French régal…”

Regal – royal!” Arlene exclaimed.

“Mais non, Manon!” Jess replied. “That would be royal or réal. Somehow it’s from régal ‘treat’ but that’s from Old French galer, ‘to enjoy oneself’.”

“As in gala,” Maury said from the sideboard, to which he had sidled. “At one of which I am due in half an hour.” He poured himself a glass of cava.

“Well, you can regale them with our pregaling you with our dinner at Arzak,” Arlene said. She took the phone from Jess’s hand and flipped back to the menu photo. “Look, after the Mandarin pigeon there’s something called ‘Enigma.’”

I leaned in, flipped my glasses onto my forehead, and read. “Yuzu and cherry cream with mint crisp.”

“You’ve solved it!” Arlene said. “Now solve how it got from gifts and galas to storytelling.”

“That’s easy enough,” Jess said. “It’s all pleasing entertainments. You can still regale someone with food and drink. You can regale yourself, too.”

“Dinner and a bedtime story for one!” Arlene said. “Netflix and chill by yourself. But first… pregale.”

“Oh, the things we will do. Let me tell you about them.” Jess raised her glass.

I turned to Maury, who was still at the sideboard, already refilling his glass. “You’re going to a gala?”

“Yes,” he said, “but it’s likely to be a dry evening.”

“Dull company?” Jess said.

“And an expensive cash bar,” Maury said.

“So let me guess,” Arlene said. “You’re…

Maury nodded and finished the sentence with her: “…pregaming.” He raised his glass in a toast.

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