Sunday, April 13, 2008

One thing I like about France


So last Sunday wasn’t as bad as I thought it was going to be. Hubby decided to stay home instead of working at the greenhouse. Maybe those sad faces I kept pulling when he talked about the busy season coming up started making him think. So with a whole Sunday before us, we mapped out our day. I suggested we start by getting croissants for breakfast. You may think since I live in France that this is a routine occurrence, but in fact, neither of us could really remember when we’d last done it. We have several bakeries within walking distance, but in the week we just eat our sliced bread. On the rare occasions that we have no more bread, we usually draw straws to see who has to walk in the cold/rain/dark to get a loaf of bread. But here we could sleep in and walk to the bakery at our leisure.

Hubby likes to tease me about going to the bakery since it’s the quintessential French thing we tourists love. And since I’m the resident American here he often uses this argument to make me go get that loaf of bread in the middle of winter. But it really is a pleasure, when I think about it. It takes me back to those days when I’d look at the French textbooks of my friends (‘cause I studied German) and drool over the pictures of little bakeries on cobbled streets. Or it reminds me of the oohs and aahs of my family when we bought pastries at the bakeries in Paris together. They too are enchanted by this French tradition.

There are times when I realize I’m not indulging in this little pleasure enough. I walk by the high-end bakeries in my city and admire the chic little raspberry tarts and fruity cakes of all colors, and say no, not today. Thinking of my pocketbook or arteries, you know. Which made last Sunday all the more special. I took my husband to the basic bakery in our neighborhood which has recently been taken over by a baker/pastry chef who used to work on Club Med cruises. I swear he looks a bit like a marine (he has tattoos on his upper arms), but my husband is indifferent to this. Since he’s just starting out in our area, it’s kind of our duty to support him, right? And sample all the pastries.

So the new baker and my husband got to chatting about how hard it is to run your own business in France these days. Believe it or not, there are lots of villages that are losing their bakeries because young folks don’t want all the hard work of the job and it’s often too expensive to hire help with France’s high tax system. Bakeries are becoming an endangered species in some towns. Like I said in my title, bakeries are one of the things I can honestly say I like about this country so my ears perk up when it comes to this subject. I would start one myself if it didn’t involve getting up at 4 a.m.

Anyhow, we just got your “basic” croissants and pains au chocolat. The latter are made from the same dough as croissants but folded more into a rectangle and have some chocolate baked inside. And they were quite good. Buttery, flaky. We had a small discussion about how to translate flaky into French. Feuilleté? Delicious in any language. And hopefully we won’t wait so long to have our next bakery outing this time.

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