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NBP: In France, French Bread is just called Bread

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Joined: 28 Jan 2006
Posts: 8964
Location: Deleoware
NBP: In France, French Bread is just called Bread  Reply with quote  

chris wrote:
In France, French Bread is just called Bread

August 19th, 2009

Paris: 6:00 AM

Itís been years since Iíve seen 6:00 AM from either side of the clock. Letís face it, itís too fucking early to get up, unless youíre a fisherman or a soldier, and even then itís still too early, and itís too late to be up, unless youíre 20 or snorting meth, and then itís still too late. But lately, I find myself in a time-warp jet lag thatís so bad Iím afraid Iím going to run into myself sitting in front of the EURO FRIED SNAILS BISTRO and create a disturbance in the time space continuum which will all cause us to be enslaved by our smart phones, or a black guy to become president causing mouth breathers to show up at health insurance rallies with light arms to intimidate him, despite his commanding the mightiest military force to ever menace the planetÖ

Hey, wait a minuteÖ

Whew, it was just an Iphone app alerting me to send a Facebook update about brushing my teeth. No worries.

So anyway, Paris: 6:00AM

The rose sky is streaked with purple clouds ó the perfect backdrop for the stone guardians of the Gothic cathedrals, St. Jaqueís, Notre Dame, St. Eustachianís, St. Severins and so forth. The streets have just been scrubbed slick, the steps by the Seine steam-cleaned,of urine, blood, and wine, and the traffic is so light that the gray choke of exhaust hasnít yet risen in the air. Most of the traffic, in fact, is pedestrian, out early, and yes, they do make eye-contact and say bon jour, and smile, and it seems, very unlike what you would think youíd find in an enormous, ancient/modern city. At the bolangeries, (the bakeries of bread, distinct from the patisseries, makers of pastries, although some do both) the baguettes are coming out of the oven and that warm, yeasty smell that almost seems to carry comfort and carbs wafts down the sidewalks, drawing in nearly everyone by turns.

Cops pull up, step quickly in, and emerge with baguette under their arms, one has his tucked in a leather portfolio. The dog walker, the amblers, the hipsters coming back from the clubs, the rasta man, the gay couple, the painter, the street sweeper, the wedding couple out early to get their photos done in front of the Cathedral: they all check in, get their baguette Ė one euro Ė and move on. You really have to have one to be out there, to be on the street at that hour. Legend says, that the man who walks the streets of Paris at dawn without a baguette, risks attack by the gargoyles come alive. They swoop down, take you, do unspeakable things to you, and the next time you are seen, youíre turned to stone, perched on the corner of an ancient tower, watching, waiting to swoop down on the next breadless victim. I would not risk it, being unfamiliar with Paris, the French language, and having a mid-level fear of heights. I take my baguette, walk to the cathedral, and tear a warm swath of it, eat it while I watch the wedding couple pose and the gargoyles scowl above.

The happy couple, out early to get the photos in front of Notre Dame sans people.

The proper French baguette is about two feet long, about two and a half inches wide, and the crust has a leathery, crunchy, flaky texture thatís not to elastic, nor too hard, nor too toughĖperfect to the tooth: it resists and gives in like a teasing lover, just in time, just enough to make it more than worth your effort, to heighten the taste and satisfaction. That crust can only be achieved with the exact balance of moisture, heat, air and amour. There are variants, of course, rustic, speckled with raisins, currents, olives or chocolate Ė double, triple, quadruple the size, giant brown barges of yeasty flour, waiting to ship off a load of meats and cheese, but the classic, the baton baguette, thatís the best frantic hungry fuck of French bread you can buy, and I have. I do. I shall.

When Iíve finished this trip, I may have what I need for a book, but Iíll be as round as as tick, a turgid torso man, my tiny limbs protruding from my bread bloated body like toothpicks from a Peep. Already the apartment floor is beginning to drift with crumbs, like a flaky edible beach, and thereís a satisfying crunch when you walk. If you drop a chicken leg it will be breaded for frying when you pick it up. Unfortunately, so are my socks.

Alas, it is my destiny, unless I find the French cure for this ongoing spasm of breadgasm. Because itís true, there a none too few fat people in Paris.

American woman growl at their French sisters seemingly effortless slim. And I must admit, Iím not quite sure how the balding French hipster is pulling off the high-carb cool with so much thin, but it is so. Thereís something they know.

I donít.

I saw this vigilante across from the Louvre yesterday. Thereís someone out there fighting for the right to be round. God bless you, scary cape lady, God bless you.

(All this dialogue was in French, of course. Iíve translated for your benefit.)

God Bless You Crazy Cape Lady!

I will carry on for you, my noble readers, to test the limits of baguette consumption, even if Iím forced to endure a cloud of stinky cheese to do so. Even now, our tiny fridge reeks with the fumes of a Camembert, which tastes great, and is mild and creamy and cheap (I mean really cheap, like cream cheese cheap), yet smells so ripe-feety, that if you open the fridge door, you can smell the fumes down the hall, and after one day in the fridge with the cheese, a baguette is so infused with the aroma, that you donít even need to spread the cheese on it to get the flavor. (Iím not kidding.) And as the Buddah said, ďwith stinky cheese may come friends.Ē

There are two boxes of something called Rat-Soris under the sink in the kitchen, and Iím pretty sure, without checking my French/English dictionary, that that means Rat Smiles*. Who can blame them? I expect to awaken any morning to find a half-dozen smiling rodents surfing the fumes of stinky cheese from our fridge to mystic breadcrumb dunes of rat nirvana Ė not to worry, youíll hear my scream in the States, and wonder how such a rotund fellow can sound so impossibly feminine.

Next time, I really will visit the mannequin store and show you some public sculpture to be found around the city.

Hereís a preview:

* Iíve since looked up souris to find out it means mouse, but smile is sourire, so an understandable mistake, I think.

"If you allow yourself to be offended, then you're a bit of [a] nitwit."
(Christopher Moore)

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