Saturday, July 3, 2010

A rainy day and Pastries 4 & 4.5

Today it rained. Not just a few drops, or a shower, but the most steady and dreary rain I've seen here yet. It lasted all morning. By 10am I was hungry and antsy so I headed out to find breakfast. Well, not so much luck. My favorite boulangerie/patisserie is closed on weekends for the summer (starting today) and my favorite crepe place hadn't opened yet. Between the soaking rain and the shuttered shops, it seemed like Paris was going to hide today.

I did manage to find a little store that was open. It was mostly a sandwich shop, but I wanted breakfast, so I picked this fruit rouge crumble for Pastry #4.

It was terrible. I don't think that "crumbles" are French and this one just wasn't tasty! The bottom crust was cake-like but hard and the topping tasted weird. I didn't even finish it.

So I waited, and three hours later I went out for my favorite crepe, at my favorite creperie.

Crepes here are sold from little windows overlooking the street. I have my favorite crepe guy. He's nice to me, asks me about how I'm doing, and he allows me to stumble along in my basic French. And then after he makes me my crepe, he wraps it up in a nice little to-go package and hands it over. Its not really a pastry, but I'm still going to count it as Pastry 4.5.

I have limited myself to one nutella crepe per week, but because I walk by the window on my way to and from work, I get to say hello daily.

I have to say, I think one thing that surprised me is how quickly I found "my" shops. For example, "my" grocery. "My" corner market. "My" pastry & bread shop. "My" crepe shop. People are surprisingly nice. And because stores are smaller and specialized, people really seem to take more pride in their work. Even within a store, I will have my favorite staffmember. Sungyon and I like the same creperie, but she's friends with the older guy and I'm friends with the younger one. In the pastry and bread store around the corner, the younger woman and I have a bond, and we'll both re-arrange ourselves in line to make sure that she'll serve me. (She is also very nice and puts up with my horrible French kindly because she doesn't speak English and sometimes she even teaches me new French words!) I find that I notice the tourists in stores easily because they don't go through the pleasantries that are common in French businesses. For example, when you enter, the store owner or salesperson will say "bonjour" or "bonsoir" and you are expected to respond. They will say goodbye to you too when you leave, and if you want to be really French you should say goodbye (au revoir) too, and maybe "see you tomorrow" (a bientot) if you'll be back for your baguette in the morning. Here businesses aren't about super-efficiencies and sterile shiny environments - they are about the people and the relationships. Its shocking and a bit jarring at first to an American. But somehow it feels more "at home" to me than almost anywhere I've ever been. I might not "belong", but at least people know I exist and genuinely smile when I enter and say "bonjour".

But don't worry, I haven't run off and turned French. My knitting is keeping me grounded and reminding me what (or who) I'm missing. Don't worry honey, I made sure this picture wouldn't give away any of the surprise!

1 comment:

  1. "A rainy day and Pastries 4 & 4.5"

    Sounds like a name for a Dylan song.