Cheese and wine are reason enough to visit France; oh, and a good-tasting baguette or pain de compagne – country loaf. French stalls are so carefully laid out; they take such care with their produce. They recognise the importance of their cultural heritage – leur patrimoine culturel – and food is an integral part of that culture. They are aware of the value of what is old; they take pride in repairing and refurbishing anything from a falling-down wall or a crumbling village fountain where, once upon a time, the local women used it to wash their laundry. It’s about meaning and memories; all this material culture shapes who they are.
Haricots verts of natural and varied sizes; not those uniformly-cut! Even aesthetics
has crept into our food. Here, peas-in-the-pod, mmm, the idea of shelling them
and creating delightful combinations for this evening’s meal… umm with what?
Let’s ramble some more…
I’m after getting side-tracked! A boulangerie – bakery – you will find all
sorts of bread. Scrumptious smells wafting from the kitchen – behind the
scenes. Les brioches, my favourite –
full of salted butter – mouth-watering! You have, no doubt, happened upon the
many chocolatiers – craft chocolate
makers – or discovered one or two pâtisseries
– French pastry shops – on your travels to Paris. I am always enthralled; my
eyes are entranced by exquisite gâteaux
of all shapes and sizes, mouth-watering, these pastries look as good as they
As I step back in time to when, as a jeune fille au pair, I first set eyes on
the mosaic of pastries I was mesmerised, wow, such choice, perhaps too much! Non, there is never too much! I
appreciate good, bitter chocolate, and strong, but not-bitter, coffee, and so my choice of gâteau was, for quite some time, an opéra – mmm – just to think about it I can taste the delightful
marriage of chocolate and coffee; all those layers… the onctueux – smooth chocolate, the rich coffee, what a mélange – a
match made in heaven. So back to recalling this first time… the young shop
assistant asking me to repeat, opéra,
no less than three times! Of course I was not accentuating the ‘é’ of opéra, and she failed to understand my accent. It’s like the ‘fada’ in Irish; it indicates that the
vowel is to be pronounced ‘long’. So in the end I just pointed to it – ce gâteau là ! – getting rather
impatient, I suppose that is why I wanted to speak French without my Irish
accent! Don’t worry I wasn’t traumatised or anything!
Every time my husband and I take a trip
to Paris – or to France in general – the predominant theme that informs our vacances is food. We are constantly in
pursuit of that original pâtisserie, bread, café, restaurant that
heightens our senses.
Laurent Duchène, 238 Rue de la Convention, Paris XV, is a pâtissier with the edge. His work is colouful, creative, and bien entendu, tasty. The Club pistache griotte is a favourite of ours; L’exodus is a personal choice, go try it out, it’s worth the detour. And there’s so much more; the colourful shop front will entice you. We never leave Paris without having our box of macarons – not to be confused with macaroons. Made with almond flour (ground almond), Pierre Hermé, 72, rue Bonaparte, Paris VI is a renowned name in this speciality. But don’t forget to support small, local food businesses that produce their bread and pastry from scratch in the early hours of the morning, they are just as inviting so check them out. À suivre…