A Paris Pastry Story: A Lesson in Love and Another (unlearned) in Self Control

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I couldn’t wait for my host to stop talking. I didn’t care how to use the remote control; why would I watch TV in Paris? I didn’t care (at the moment) which way was hot and which was cold, or how to use the towel heater. P was a gracious host, a charming man with a sense of humor, oui, but like many of the French, once he got to talking he rarely gave the other person a chance to interject. He insisted I rest before dinner. ‘P, I just want to wash my hands. I just came from the airport, I need to wash my hands. And then, can you please tell me where the nearest bakery is?’

P drew me a map. I made like Joey in ‘Friends’, got in my map, and walked the three blocks to the neighborhood boulangerie. School had just got out in the 17th arrondissement, and the line was out the door. Cigarette-smoking, insanely intimidating teenage girls waited to order their paninis. They blew smoke in my face as if I were invisible, but for once I didn’t care. I was in line for something else. I had missed the morning’s freshest croissants, but I spotted the sweet that would wash away the 8 hour plane ride. ‘Cookie?!’ I chirped. ‘Just cookie?’ The shopgirl asked me, confused. ‘Yes- I mean, oui!’ 

This was not your average chocolate chip cookie. The chocolate was melted into the giant cookie, which was the size of my face no less, with a mound of chocolate in the center. I had not had breakfast, nor lunch, and I couldn’t tell what time it was in Paris or New York. Like the chocolate in the cookie, I was neither here nor there; I was like liquid moving in a dreamlike state back to P’s as I  ate the entire cookie. I didn’t even notice it was gone until my hand came out of the paper bag buttery and empty. I don’t remember taking off my clothes. I must have fallen asleep with the bag next to my head, perfectly satisfied at how my first 20 minutes in Paris had played out, because I woke up to the smell of chocolate cookie. A far better way to rise out of deep sleep than a blaring alarm. I do highly recommend it.

The rest of the trip was a blur of pastries and sweets. I went at them as if I had never eaten before, as if I would never see French pastries again. The croissant aux amandes from the market at Galerie Lafayette was an unforgettable experience. I hadn’t planned on eating the whole thing, as I had already had a few pastries that day, but the sugary, flaky, slivered almonds, and the lush almond pastry cream… oh la la. I ate it so fast, you would think I was swallowing stolen jewels.

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Maddeningly divine tart aux pommes from La Grand Épicerie at Bon Marche

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Wall of pastries at Fauchon

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Croissant aux amandes: the other half of my love affair with French pastries

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At La Grand Epicurie at Bon Marche

The juhles cafe eclair from Cafe Charlotte was another life-changing pastry experience. This time, however, I cut my eclair like a lady. I indulged one bite at a time, with fork and knife, merci beaucoup.
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