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Tuesday, 11 February 2014

The Big Goût

Even French President François Hollande Eats the Whole Thing

Globalization comes in sheep's clothing: local bakeries and pastry shops propose, one at a time, American imports -- cheesecake, donuts, cupcakes, muffins, not always the most stellar concoctions when they are prepared on this side of the pond.
What a streak of irony in a country to which foreigners have always flocked waxing lyrical over, precisely its artisanal French food products, including its legendary crusty baguette and its tempting pastries. If analogy is the fuel and fire of thinking, as demonstrated by cognition specialists American Douglas Hospfstadter and Frenchman Emmanuel Sander in their fascinating 2013 study 'Surfaces and Essences,' bread must have been on the forefront of French thought for centuries, a true motherlode for multitudinous analogies.
 Gone is Descartes and his cogito, ergo sum. We are in the homeland of comedo panem, ergo sum -- 'I eat bread, therefore I am.' 
From excellence ('to be good as good bread'), integrity ('to refuse to eat that bread'), opportunistic behavior ('to know what side your bread is buttered on'), lack of physical female charms ('flat as a bread cutting board') to business acumen ('to sell like petits pains' [hotcakes in English]), or slug slang (to do someone in, faire passer le goût du pain à quelqu'un), teeming bread analogies confirm that French bread and bakery items are here to stay, cupcakes, donuts notwithstanding.
Unfortunately, facing the competition of new imports, French dyed-in-the-wool bakers lure their clientele with another American product, the GMO (Gluttony Modified Obsession), a.k.a. Super Sizing.
In Nice, and, alas, elsewhere in France, traditional artisans now propose super croissants, super meringues.... With one single order sating a whole family, we come close to revising the historic saying, "Let them have... meringues!"
Even that wonderous, chewy, buttery, delicate morsel, la madeleine, comes in an aggrandized version with chocolate chips, a spot of Nutella, or blueberry jelly injected in it. A la mode of cherry jam donuts. A maxi madeleine that might have induced Proust to fill an even longer book shelf.
Being so near the Italian border, we benefit from a different influence, and I will console myself with an order of ristretto, a very petite version of my regular espresso.
Let us rediscover the small pleasures of life!