Who does not love Paris? Of all the skylines in the world, I like that of Paris the best.
My love for Paris is deeply anchored in my childhood, when it was the place to be if one had to go anywhere else. My geographic knowledge was limited to London and Paris, the rest of the world cities just happen to be there. From the sweet lingering whiff of a Parisian scent caught to the memorabilia exhibited proudly on dressers, Paris meant ‘le grand monde’ for me. It was only an extension and confirmation on a grander scale of all things I grew up with.
Whenever I am in Paris, the first thing that hits me is the visual harmony of a hectic crowd and my eyes try to catch the glimpse of, what a true Parisian looks like. To start with, many look a normal size, nicely dressed in more cheerful colours compared to the blacks and greys of London, women look younger and slimmer, the buildings rivalling with each other in character and the shops displaying a cacophony of aesthetically beautiful vain stuff. I can never understand my soul’s drooling over the shops windows’ displays. Whether it is for the beauty or the function of the object. Or just because it is in Paris.
But then, Paris is beautiful. Everything looks different, tastes different here. The French have the art of making simple things look beautiful.
Before I write about the shopping scene in Paris I usually drown myself in, I should pen the biggest establishment of France.
My first desperate grab while in Paris is a baguette.
It is like a release for a bread lover like me. A fix that does not leave me even long after I have left the city. The only place where I would call a bread, a real bread. The French baguette is legendary. And the Parisians are very serious about it. Inarguably, Paris has the best bread in the world. And for sure the best baguettes.
Parisians love their baguettes. Tasty and phallic, baguettes are a landmark of Parisian food culture. But lately, a wind of change has been blowing on Parisian bakeries. A sweeping one.
Hurting the good old baguette. At their local bakery, Parisians now massively opt for “La Baguette Tradition” instead of the good old baguette. La Baguette Tradition is a new phenomenon that has taken over Parisian bakeries over the past ten years. It is made exclusively out of wheat flour, no additives are used. It is shorter, better and more pricy than the regular baguette. Whenever I am in Paris, my friend Deborah knows what she has to get each morning for us to start our lazy Summer mornings. A baguette ‘tradition’ which gets company by heavenly patries like ‘ religieuse au chocolat’, which we sinfully indulge in during our time for a ‘collation’. It is a moment of silent meditation we both respect and relish. Each digging in the creamy luscious chocolaty custard mound in the choux pastry shell and breathing a sigh of contentment when the plate is clean. Ah que la vie est belle !
Coming back to bread …
The real bread-loving Parisian escalates the provocation to the regular baguette by asking for “une tradi s’il vous plait”. That’s right. A nickname. No plain baguette ever reached this level of intimacy with a Parisian. Ever.
Besides this obvious familiarity with his new beloved bread, the Parisian will know at what time of the day les tradis come out of the oven. That’s when he’ll go buy his. For bread is of course much better warm. And Parisians like it better this fresh.
While most Parisian families usually opted for one baguette, they now go two tradi. For one –especially if warm – is going to be eaten on the way back home. I can vow for its quality and taste. Nothing comes close to it. A piece that deserves all repect. What ever accompaniment you choose for it, it is always complying with fervour to make the meal a true simple delight.
Thus, this most daily Parisian act – buying bread- has lately turned into a little daily luxury: that of turning your back to la baguette to indulge in the irresistible tradi.
Such is the Parisian: constantly reinventing Tradition.