I'm talking about this part from the start of Chapter Eight:
Colette and Kevin were just finishing a game of dominoes, and Hugo had cooked up a pot of tom ka gai, which is a delicious soup commonly eaten in Thailand. But as the Baudelaires sat at the table and ate their supper, they were not in the mood to digest the mixture of chicken, vegetables, fancy mushrooms, fresh ginger, coconut milk, and water chestnuts that the hunchback had prepared. They were more concerned with digesting information, a phrase which here means “thinking about everything that Madame Lulu had told them.” Violet took a spoonful of hot broth, but she was thinking so hard about Lulu’s archival library that she scarcely noticed the unusual, sweet taste. Klaus chewed on a water chestnut, but he was wondering so much about the headquarters in the Mortmain Mountains that he didn’t appreciate its appealing, crunchy texture. And Sunny tipped the bowl forward to take a large sip, but she was so curious about the disguise kit that she wasn’t aware that her beard was getting soaked. Each of the three children finished their soup to the last drop, but they were so eager to hear more from Lulu about the mystery of V.F.D. that they felt hungrier than when they sat down.
I think it's pretty obvious here that the soup is actually quite delicious and the Baudelaires just aren't in the mood to fully appreciate that; their minds are elsewhere. But if it wasn't very good, they certainly wouldn't have finished every drop of it, and it sounds like quite a complicated dish to prepare anyway.
You could argue that anyone can take a photograph or draw a map or remember a fact they've read, they just might not do as good a job of it as Kit (maybe), Quigley, and Klaus. Mr. Remora's talent may not be a very useful or prestigious one but he has mastered it.
I really like the point that only the "good" characters display both a talent and an interest in the same skill: it illustrates the way in which certain characters are the good/bad counterparts to others ie Beatrice is "good" because she both is skilled at acting and enjoys it; whereas Esme is her "bad" counterpart because she pursues a career in acting yet we assume (in part because of her association with Olaf) that she possesses no skill for it.
I think perhaps that it is less that certain characters has certain 'skills', and maybe more the case that each character is identified (or differentiated if you like) by one particular trait, a sort of personal signature. For many characters (like Nero) it is a hobby or pursuit; but for other characters, like Charles, it is more a unique facet of their personality, ie his constant supplication to Sir.
I see your argument, moseymoo; the likes of Esmé and Olaf are interested in acting, but have no talent at it - although there is a bit of a paradox in that particular instance as while Olaf may not be a very entertaining actor or one who can fool the Baudelaires, it's clear he has the power to deceive a great many people, and Esmé was even more capable. So perhaps their deficiency lies somewhere else - in their taste or the ends they turn their talents to, or even in their willingness to sometimes squander their talents on ends that are unworthy.
I feel like the "special skill" idea does break down later on. It's useful for assigning character roles in the early series, where we only have basic one-note or one-interest characters like Monty or the Quagmires, but later we get more able and flexible figures like Kit Snicket or indeed more abstract ones like the sinister duo who can't be reduced in the same way. I think it would have been an interesting gimmick to give V.F.D. - for everyone to train in a single specialism - but it's one that I think is abandoned and certainly isn't evident in ATWQ.
Hmm yes, I think perhaps that breakdown of particular character traits in the later novels is perhaps indicative of the breakdown of a black and white moral code: as the Baudelaires begin to question their own morality in the later books, the ancillary characters tend to become less polarised and occupy a rather more murky moral grey area...