Published on July 21st, 2015 | by Ann Rickard0
French Patisserie Greed
Greed hits within an hour of arriving in France.
Even the most strong-willed have no strength when confronted by a dazzling array of cakes, quiches, pastries, chocolates and nougat in an overwhelming number of patisseries in every city, town and village.
For me, greed begins within 15 minutes of arriving at Charles de Gaulle airport and transferring to the TGV station for the fast train to whisk me down to the south of France where I have visited every year for the past 10 years.
Even the small station cafe beguiles and seduces with its trays of pain au chocolat, warm croissants and pain aux raisins.
Then on the train with the gorgeous French countryside flashing past, a croque monsieur, a simple ham and cheese sandwich from the humble buffet car, is given the inimitable French touch when covered in rich béchamel and toasted to gooey perfection. “Am I really eating this much excellence on a train?” I ask myself every year after my first croque monsieur bite.
For ten years I have hosted small tour groups in the medieval and leafy town of Uzes in the Languedoc-Rousillon region near Provence.
Every year before my guests are due and while my hosting preparations are underway, I stand drooling before patisserie counters overloaded with pleasure and agonising temptation. I sway with desire and indecision.
The cream-filled choux pastry covered with flaked almonds and snow-dusted with icing sugar?
The tart tatin with its delicate thin slices of caramelised apple?
The chocolate coated éclair with creme patissiere?
Decision is impossible. I have all three.
By the time my guests arrive I have gained two kilos, my greed is sated, and I can watch their own with amusement as they face the same patisserie pleasure.
Over the next two weeks we all become pastry experts, as discerning as any local.
“The patisserie in the Place aux Herbs does the best clafoutis with glistening dark cherries.”
“There is a new patisseries opened near the Rue Jacques d’Uzes, their mille-feuille is superior to all others and their orange-blossom meringues are like eating the clouds.”
“Beware the patisserie on the Boulevard Gambetta.” (This is said is hushed and confidential tones). “I believe they put their morning unsold goat cheese quiches back on the shelf in the afternoon. Mon Dieu.”
As for the exquisite bread…well, that’s another story that must wait, for the variety is so overwhelming, so infinite I need time to salivate privately before I can relate it to you.