I usually resist the temptation to run to the boulangerie at the end of my street to buy myself a French pastry. Because I’m exercising something called willpower. “Juliet” my voice of conscience gently admonishes, “you don’t need a pastry.” But I know that the boulangerie-patisserie at the end of my road is open on Sunday afternoons. And they make the most delectable little cakes, eclairs and cream puffs. This knowledge weakens my resolve. And besides, this isn’t a question of need. I want a French pastry at 4 p.m. on a dull, gray Sunday afternoon. And why shouldn’t I have one? I’m a good girl. I deserve it.
So out I ran, amidst gently falling snowflakes, clad in sweatpants and an old sweater, hair unkempt and no makeup (oh, the shame! Quelle honte !) No time for lipstick. Making up for my negligence, I threw on my Tibetan woolly bonnet purchased last month in Brussels and my Montreal mink. (Yes, all you PETA supporters, I unapologetically purchased a long raincoat lined with mink ten years ago in Montreal when the temperature was minus 30 degrees celsius outside.) It has a mink-lined hood, called a capuche in French, that is particularly stylish.
I knew exactly what I wanted: a pistachio-flavoured mille-feuille. I’d had one before from this boulangerie and it was divine.
“Bonjour, Madame“, I said, running into the shop as if on an urgent mission. “Je voudrais une mille-feuille pistache, s’il vous plaît.”
“Il n’en reste plus.” the woman replied.
Huh? None left? I stood in my mink, my fluorescent pink and green running shoes, and my Tibetan woolly hat feeling bereft. Don’t you hate it when you’ve got your mind fixed on one thing and then you learn that it’s unavailable? I gazed wildly at the other pastries in the display case. “Errrrr…..well, OK, I guess I’ll have a religieuse then. One chocolate and one coffee. Please.” When studying French at Paul Valéry University in Montpellier a hundred years ago, I was obsessed with these eclair-like cakes. The name, religieuse, means “nun” and the pastry is supposed to represent a tubby nun in a habit.
Scampering back up the street, I returned to my warm and cozy flat to make tea. The best accompaniment to French pastry, in my opinion, is jasmine or rose petal tea.