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embarking on a life of crime

Don’t ask me why I didn’t consult the weather report before getting on the train to Paris. Maybe it was destiny.

The plan was to start in the Canal St. Martin area in the 10th arrondissement. It’s supposed to be an up and coming neighborhood. From there I’d cut through the Marais, and cross the Seine to the 6th and 7th arrondisements (which is ideally where I’d like my future husband to have a pied de terre).

After a short sweaty walk down the Canal St. Martin I head for the Seine…maybe there’s a breeze there. There isn’t. Which leaves two options. Jump in the Seine or find a nice air-conditioned establishment to seek refuge from the imaginary global warming. The refuge just happens to be Dalloyau Patisserie. Here I will cool off, get something to drink and reassess my game plan.

In the Sex in the City version of my life, there would be a handsome Frenchman also seeking shelter in Dalloyau. It would just be him and me and the windows steaming up. We’d start to chat, the windows would steam up some more, maybe there’d be a hot pastry sharing scene followed by a thunderstorm. Of course, we’d run through the rain to his fabulous nearby pied du terre. That doesn’t happen. It’s just the pastries and me.

Since I have a short attention span and am easily distracted by bright, shiny objects, I immediately forget my game plan. Oooooo, pretty tart…pretty puffy thing with cream and berries…pretty chocolately square… Since I haven’t set foot into any sort of boutique for months, all my most shallow consumer cravings are bursting forth here and now and I’m not sure if I have the self control to stop them.

I’ve always been a little stand offish about French pastry. Sure, there’s your croissant, your tarts, your pan au chocolat, éclairs, panniers, beignets…all delicious. But there’s a whole world of pastry out there I’ve never tried. The custardy things with apricots on top, the huge chocolate bombs, the things that look like opaque green jello, the napoleons of many stripes. Frankly, I never thought I’d like them. Most of them look a little too gooey, too sweet, too much (although right now, I’m sure my life will never be complete without consuming each and every one of them).

It doesn’t help that I’m afraid of the women in the Auvers bakery. I pretty much buy my bread, catch a quick glance of the desserts out of the corner of my eye and get out of there. No hemming and hawing trying to decide between the cannonball sized snowball rolled in shaved dark chocolate, the tried and true fruit tart with plump perfect raspberries, the white creamy looking cakes with imbedded strawberries…nope, she’s giving me a dirty look…she’s gonna yell at me…’un bagette s’il vous plait…une Ooops, desolee, UNE bagette, s’il vous plait.’ I always wind up skulking out in shame.

The pastries here at Dalloyau look like jewels glimmering behind the glass. I get lost in them until reflexively, like a guilty dog, I look up at the woman behind the counter to see if she’s giving me a dirty look or about to smack me with a newspaper. She’s not. She’s smiling at me. I take this as a sign that fate brought me here for a bigger purpose than whatever my initial game plan was.

I should make it my business to try every pastry out there and write a thorough review. Sort of a verbal painting depicting the beauty of each pastry. I’ll be the like the Van Gogh of French Pastry description. If I try one pastry a day, I think I can still get every possible pastry in. There couldn’t be more than 90 french pastry varieties out there, could there?. I suppose if there are more, I’ll have to double up.

I know, it seems like an indulgence. A pastry a day can really add up. But it’s cheaper than lipgloss or a pack of cigarettes, both of which I’ve given up. And my efforts will serve mankind as a guide to what sort of pastries they may like and dislike. Yes, I’ll do it in the name of helping my fellow man navigate the intricate world of French pastry. And for art. Now that’s a lasting legacy.

Of course, the venture does involve critical risks. Like spending my hard borrowed money on deserts I may not even like (and where will that leave me when I crave something sweet and I blew my wad on some lavish frou-frou concotion that sickened me earlier?) And the capital risk is enormous considering that at this very moment, I only have 5 Euros. How will I afford a pastry AND get back to Auvers? And what about tomorrow? Will I be forced to beg for pastry? Will I become poor AND fat? Nobody feels sorry for a fat homeless person. Now I’m sweating out of pure stress.

But sometimes, you’ve just got to go for it. At least I know I won’t have to shoot myself in a field when my time here is up. I can just have a heart attack on my way up to the field. Nobody can say I didn’t consider all the angles.

I order a chocolate macaroon. A relatively safe bet being chocolate and only 3 Euros. Now, this isn’t your classic coconut cookie you think of in America. Not even close. It looks like a scooter pie. It’s two chocolate almond merinque cookies sandwiching a thick layer of dark chocolate ganache. I hold my breath and take a bite….ahhhhh, this is decadent.

It’s like the world’s biggest truffle, with a slightly crispy coating that crackles like a thin layer of ice and melts into the ganache. How could heroin possibly be more addictive than this? There’s that pure chocolate endorphin rush, but there’s also the taste…no, not just taste, it’s bigger than taste, it’s a feeling. It almost engulfs the brain. I’m in Paris and I’m eating the most chocolately delicious thing in the world and I’m soooooooooooo happy!

When I come to, I’m already wondering how when and where I’ll get my next fix. And do I really want to try those custardy things? Maybe I should limit myself strictly to macaroons. Seriously, I haven’t even dented the surface of macaroons. There are caramel, coffee, vanilla, strawberry, green ones, chocolate noisette.…

No, that would be the cowards way out. I must explore the entire pastry realm. But damn, I could go for another chocolate macaroon right now. Maybe I should marry a Patisserier. I nonchalantly check the back kitchen of Dalloyau to see if Mr. Right is back there. He’s not. I guess that would just be too easy.

I gather my remaining two euros, thank the girls behind the counter profusely and step out out into the torture chamber. I was going to walk back to Gare du Nord and save myself the Metro fare but I forgot how hot it is. I fear I’ll become one of those elderly woman heatwave death statistics if I do. And how tragic would it be to die after experiencing such happiness only an hour before? On the other hand, perhaps THAT’s my destiny. Nahhhh. The metro entrance is about 50 yards away.

As I walk briskly toward my train, I don’t even notice all the handsome men I’m sure must be checking me out. I’m deep in thought, ticking off my options methodically. I hope I could be mistaken for a high powered businesswoman (wearing “don’t socra-tease me” toenail polish) making a career altering decision as she rushes to her train for the burbs. Nobody has to know what I’m really thinking: “I could try the chocolate cannonball next, but maybe I should try something fruitier. Or would it be smarter to bite the bullet and get one of those things that look like jello with berries out of the way. Hey, there’s probably something for two Euros at the bakery in Auvers.”

I jump the turnstiles and head for my train.


Read David Lebovitz’s compilation of all things macaron, including recipes.


3 Responses

  1. You made me laugh.

  2. […] Embarking on a life of crime (how I went to Paris and fell in love…with French Pastry) […]

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