Died and Gone to the Boulangerie

Just breakfast. Le petit dejeuner. That’s all I need in France.  I always order the same thing: un cafe creme, une tartine beurree et de la confiture, et de l’eau sans gaz. A coffee with milk, a small, toasted baguette with butter and jam, and a non-carbonated bottle of water. Nothing fancy. But still so good I have to write it down. Perhaps it’s because I’m sitting alone in a cafe, while my mother watches the kids for one precious hour. I’m free to follow my mind as it wanders.  For now it’s focused on the plate in front of me, on this table in La Tarte Tropezienne, my favorite bakery in St. Tropez. I watch the Tropeziennes buy their baguettes for the day ahead. A tall woman wearing a black motorcycle helmet, orange short shorts, and pink platform shoes orders a croissant, while her pug patiently waits at her feet. From my seat, I can see shining jewels in the bakery case: Perfect rows of tartes aux framboises, tartes aux fraises, and tartes aux pommes. Edible works of art, painted in brightest reds, glossy with sugar glaze. And of course there are eclairs and macarons, in an array of pastels. Even more tantalizing are the feuillettes: feuillette pommes, feuillette abricot, and feuillette poire chocolat. What could be more glorious than layers of light pastry, topped with pear and chocolate? And last but not least, the grande dame of Tropezienne pastries, La Tarte Tropezienne — a round pastry, dusted in sugar, cut in half, and filled with yellow custard, perhaps with a few strawberries. Delicieux. La dame is available in any size: grande, moyenne, petite and, my favorite, the bite-size bebe Trop. Pop one in your mouth, sink your teeth into the doughy pastry, and enjoy the sweet taste of vanilla and the crunch of sugar. Am I in heaven? No, just France. But if you ask the French, it’s close.

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