My favorite part of France was the pastries. Not just that they were so good — the best pastries I’ve ever eaten — but that they were important. That they were such a part of daily life. Walking around Marseille or Aix en Provence, every other doorway was a patisserie or boulangerie. Pastry, bread, and coffee. What could be better? These people know how to live.
It was the same in Barcelona. We walked the streets and in every other window were cases of flaky pastry. I couldn’t get enough of them: bunuelos, pestiños, ensaimadas, plain croissants, chocolate croissants, croissants filled with raspberry, sandwiches on croissants. All of them light and buttery and airy on the tongue, but with just the right bite, just the right amount of succulent chew that satisfied your teeth and your jaw and your palate.
My favorite part, though, was that since pastry shops were ubiquitous, there was always one within a few steps of where you were standing. We stayed with friends in Marseille, and each morning, instead of making an elaborate breakfast, Joaquim descended the stairs of his 200 year old apartment building, pushed open the door, walked a few steps to the boulangerie, and returned to us with an armful of croissants. He and his wife gathered the jam, the butter, the Nutella, and filled coffee cups; my husband and I spread the table cloth. We breakfasted with the July windows open, our knives clinking the crockery after we spread spreads on our pastry. One morning I spread raspberry jam on my croissant. One morning, Nutella. One morning I ate mine plain, and the next I was back to jam.
When we finished, and we cleared the table, exhausted from trying to speak Spanish with our hosts, we carried dishes to the tiny kitchen and began washing up, glassware clinking, while Joaquim bundled the table cloth, held it out the open window, and shook crumbs onto the sidewalk below.
Photo credit: Croissant by Zdenko Zivkovic
For the month of April, I will be publishing a 10-minute free write each day, initiated by a prompt from my prompt box. Minimal editing. No story. Just thoughts spilling onto the page.