I’ve spent the last couple of hours raving to various friends, colleagues and whoever cares enough to watch my Stories on Instagram about the croissant I had this morning, and it’s not enough. Must. Enthuse. More. So here is a quick (by my standards) blog about my breakfast. On y va.
The day dawned bright and sunny, and it’s Friday, and hey, I live in Paris, so I decided to treat myself to a croissant from the boulangerie this morning.* Not “my” boulangerie, but an Éric Kayser — a famous bakery whose ‘chain’ status absolutely does not mean a compromise on quality or authenticity — I happened to be passing in the neighbourhood. I went in and looked around, confused, for the croissants that would usually be filling the glass-fronted cabinets at this time of day. Strangely, I couldn’t see any. So I asked, feeling decidedly foolish for even posing such a stupid question in a Parisian boulangerie at 9:30am on a Friday morning. I mean, is the grass green?
Only instead of staring at me like the idiot I’d expected her to take me for, the woman behind the counter grimaced, shaking her head. Eh?
“I”m sorry, mademoiselle-” she started, whilst I wondered what bizarre parallel universe I’d unwittingly woken up in. You don’t seriously mean to tell me...
“-all the croissants are still in the oven.” She paused, glancing apologetically through the doorway behind her, where the pastry magic happens. “They won’t be ready for… ten minutes?”
You don’t seriously mean to tell me I have to wait TEN WHOLE MINUTES for the privilege of eating a croissant that has literally just exited the oven?
“Do you want to wait?” she asked, still endearingly apologetic for the travesty of not having croissants available on demand at breakfast time.
I managed to swallow back my laughter, but I couldn’t do anything about the gleeful grin spreading across my face as I ordered an espresso to drink outside en attendant. In the morning sunshine, on a pretty “market” street overlooking a leafy park, no less. I sipped the strong, sweet coffee and watched my fellow Parisians go about their Friday business. Ahhh.
The cashier popped her head outside the boulangerie door just as I was draining my cup and I sprang to my feet in eager anticipation. I asked for a croissant “pas trop cuit” (“not too cooked” — I like them a lighter shade of golden) and beamed again as I accepted the little paper package.
Everyday items like croissants and baguettes are turned out in such volume at your average boulangerie that it’s not uncommon to get lucky enough with your timing that your wares are still warm when you purchase them — though it always feels like winning a little lottery even so. But a croissant so fresh from the oven that the pastry was burning my fingers though the bag by the time I got back onto the street? This was a first for me and the discomfort couldn’t have been sweeter. The ultimate jackpot.
Needless to say, my expectations were enormous — and it wildly surpassed them. When I tell you the first bite of this croissant almost brought me to tears, I am not even slightly exaggerating. It made me feel things. Real emotion. Not because of taste-inspired nostalgia either, like sampling something that reminds you of your grandmother’s lasagna or the Christmases of your childhood, or anything normal like that. Purely and simply on the merit of being one of the best damn things I have ever had the joy of eating. Of experiencing, even, because as someone who wholeheartedly resides in the ‘lives-to-eat’ camp, there are few things in life I enjoy as entirely or intensely as the experience of delicious food. (Music springs to mind, but otherwise…)
I wandered home slowly, tearing off bite-sized morsels of croissant with smarting fingers and popping them euphorically into my mouth. It was almost falling apart in my hands, the flawlessly crispy, flaky exterior giving away without resistance to a soft interior that pretty much melted away on my tongue. I think I spent half the short walk with my eyes closed in sheer bliss and I certainly wasn’t silent. Are you even really appreciating your food if you aren’t audibly mmm-ing about it? Wholly absorbed in my ecstatic enjoyment, what my neighbours thought of me** couldn’t have been less of a concern — though I couldn’t have told you if I passed a single soul all the way back anyway. Nothing mattered, nothing existed, beyond the croissant.
The divinely, exquisitely, impossibly perfect croissant.
Love. At. First. Bite.
*Not that anyone every really needs a reason to treat themselves to a croissant. The croissant is the reason.
**To be honest, I feel most french people would have immediately understood the slightly bizarre behaviour on spotting the paper bag.