A woman who writes highly-regarded bread books recently contacted me. She’s coming to Paris, to ask me some questions about various bakeries and their baguettes, and which I liked. I wrote her back, that I didn’t want to sound like a dick, but when you live in Paris, you usually buy your bread from the local boulanger (there are four within a block of my apartment) rather than slogging through packed métro stations, being shoved from side-to-side en route or sitting next to some teenage yakking and tapping madly on their iPhone (pronounced EE-phone), and making two or three connections to get to some charming little bread bakery only to find out that they’re closed that day, for a fermature exceptionnelle…from 1:37 pm to 4:06 pm…every forth Wednesday of months ending in “e”.
I hate to have that whiff of “I’m over it, missy” air about me, but if I have a four hours to kill, I’m not inclined to spend a that time crossing Paris in search of a loaf of bread. Not that there aren’t breads worthy of taking a trip like that, but if I have four hours to kill, I need to spend it doing something useful—like I did yesterday, when I used those few hours to go to three different supermarkets to find the lait frais demi-écrémé which I use in my morning coffee.
(Although in reality, I do allow myself to walk a few extra blocks for bread since the quality of the bread at the place around the corner from me became too erratic. And three blocks really isn’t all that far when I’m in need of a fix.)
But the best baguette I know of is on the street where Romain lives, up near Montmarte. The bakery is horrible looking; stained fluorescent lights grimly flickering their way to a slow death, faux-wood paneling whose plastic is yellowed, cracked and peeling, and the couple that owns it (he makes the bread and she sells it) always look like they’re rather be doing anything else instead of baking and selling bread.
But of all the breads in Paris, including the hearty sourdough loaves of pain Poilâne or the crackly-crunchy baguettes at Bazin, this is the bread I crave. I never bother toasting it in the morning; I just make sure the night before that there’s plenty of salted butter left at room temperature so the following day, it glides on in a glorious thick yellow, buttery slick.
No matter what happens the rest of the day, (and considering the way things have been going around here lately, hooo-boy…do I need it…) at least the first ten minutes have been almost close to perfect.
I can’t share the name of the bakery, since not only do addicts never give up the names of their dealers, but the hours are erratic, and they only make, like, six or seven loaves pain au sésame a day and run out all the time. Which is why I buy two or three at once. I’m stockpiling them in my freezer, carefully-portioning them out in zip-lock freezer bags, for the day when those folks decide to let the last flickering light bulb die in their run-down shop and just give it up once and for all.
I can eat one of these sesame-topped baguettes all by my lonesome and it’s become my “crack” around here. But I know I’m not alone. Often I see another fellow, about my age, leaving the bakery wild-eyed, carrying three sesame baguettes as well. I don’t know if he’s stockpiling them too, but I do know that I find myself lying awake at night, wondering if I should be trying to get there before him, to make sure there’s going to be enough for me.
So far I’ve been successful. But mon dieu, may the lord help him if I ever get there and find out they’re all gone. Because we all know how drugs affect the mind, and although the mind is a terrible thing to waste, in my case, the mind is a terrible thing to mess with—and so are my drugs.
Update: Oh no!