We took a class that featured local delicacies, garden to table. We learned how the French make bread. We watched a baker assemble a tart that reminded us that those who master dough could build anything – a sailboat or a skyscraper. The baker masters shape, line and form like any good sculptor. French bakers are also are experts on locally grown fruits and vegetables, which they incorporate into dishes by season. When they create a sweet breakfast tart, it’s a master class in color, as they layer paper thin slices of golden apples, strawberries and blueberries dredged in glittery sugar in a Rococo design of a classic seashell. When it is baked, it emerges from the oven, a puff pastry worthy of Neptune’s feast. To Americans, it’s a pastry, to the French, it’s four hundred years of perfecting the art of breakfast.
The French also know how to café. They gather at wicker tables and chairs under a red awning and drink homemade wine, while they tear at a fresh loaf of bread which they eat with a sliver of soft cheese. As temporary Parisians, we are reminded that the simple ingredients make the best dishes and it’s the company you keep that makes it all taste new, like you are eating it for the first time.
Cream, butter, sugar, splashes of vinegar and hearty table wine are ingredients found in their sauces. Salt and pepper become grace notes- they do their job without the diner knowing they are there. Fresh herbs are final touches, except when whipped through eggs and folded into omelettes. It’s as though France made a culinary neighborhood in the midst of her European friends. France takes the perfumed grapes of Italy, the sweet almonds of Spain, the caramelized root vegetables of Portugal and the fluffy spaetzle of Germany and does the ingredients up their way, the only way: the French way.
Paris est delicieux!