Even the most basic can be most beautiful. This is gold.
This is my first post, in a new food series La Baguette, because I simply love these 26-inches of goodness. I don’t claim to be a connoisseur, nor am I gifted with a fantastic palate. In fact, I’m inspired to write about food – especially pastry, because I am clueless sometimes on how to taste good pastry, despite my enthusiasm for these sweet little things.
Living in Paris isn’t easy, not to say living alone for the first time. I’ve figured that good food picks me up, and this is probably true for everyone else. Truffles and foie gras are exuberant affairs, but I prefer the simple (perhaps not-so-simple) delights from the boulangeries and the pâtisseries. So over the course of the past week, I’ve made up a hit list of just where to get the créme de la créme in such a gastronomical city.
Two days ago, with some spare time in between lessons, I’d decided to visit a boulangerie/pâtisserie near school, just two metro stations away. It was Des Gâteaux et du Pain, located along Boulevard Pasteur. The shop presented itself in elegant black, standing out from its neighbours in pastel colours. I stepped into the shop, and the bread counter stood right in the middle, with generous spotlights bestowing radiance to the caramelized shells of the viennoiseries. “This is not your not your typical neighbourhood bakery,” I thought.
The pâtisseries were tucked in a corner of a shop, but that didn’t make them less attractive. Having spent a little over-budget on groceries the previous week, I quickly diverted my attention to the viennoiseries. It then occurred to me that I didn’t know what this shop was famous for. On my list, I have the names, the address, and the famous ‘thing’ for each shop, and I didn’t have my list with me. I knew I was on my own. The chausson aux pommes were wonderfully glaced and scored, and I could almost hear the madeleines calling out to me through their bumps. In the end, I chose the classic – the croissant. Nothing beats eating baked goods fresh, so I began tearing away at the fluffy shell. It was good, in fact, it was probably the best I’ve tasted. The pity was, I was in the dark.
Pity what? Dark what? When I had access to my list once again back home, I saw “Des Gâteaux et du Pain – Croissant au beurre.” The horror, the shame. I’d just tasted one of the best croissants in Paris to my ignorance. The pity wasn’t about me not knowing what others had thought of the croissant; it was my inability to tell the best, or the better, from the good. As hard as I’ve tried to reconstruct the croissant in my mind, imagination has its limits. Diets would be unnecessary if I was satisfied with what I have had in mind. I couldn’t understand why it was one of the best. I would have failed a blind-tasting test if I were a connoisseur.
And so with this lengthy story, I have explained my motivation to write about food. I’m not aspiring to be a connoisseur, or a food critic; I am more keen to understand how to taste, and what makes excellent food. Not coincidentally, I will begin with the croissants. Today, I went back again to the exquisite boulangerie, and grabbed the croissant once more, along with another one from a different shop.
A comparative study of croissants – stay tuned, “stay hungry ,