Imagine another place and time………..
It’s not a THANKSGIVING FEAST, it’s just one tiny croissant and I’m THANKFUL
Oooooh, the alarm clock rings so early, it’s so dark, but I get up anyway, after hitting snooze two times. Quietly dressing, I eagerly throw open the shutter door from the french glass door and walk out into the dark cold. no coffee, no mange, because PAUL is waiting for me and will bestow upon me a magnificent early morning petit dejuner.
If you are not forced to get up pre-dawn while on vacation in Cassis, you would have no reason to go down to the big city of Marseille at that time. But I have a class, and it’s mandatory and also thrilling for me to get there.
EVERYthing becomes big, – huge to moi at this hour. First, the fact that I’m even AWAKE is a biggie. Pink – pink grey in the far distance creeps from behind Cap Canaille as I stand in the crisp cold air blowing in from the sea as I gaze into the distance and wait for La Ginesste Bus 13 to take route D559.
Once on, I can trade the heavy hand knitted flea market scarf with tiny roses for the plain cotton cooler one, but I don’t because it’s snuggly now in the bus, and we glide ever so gently down the steep mountain; my venue always on the LEFT side of the bus so I can experience the scariest and most beautiful side of this drive. When the tires squeak as he makes the turns, it could be disconcerting, but I know that I shant worry because if he values his job like most French seem to value theirs, I am in good hands, and I needn’t worry. Finally on the final sharp hairpin turn, the tallest of the Ginesste ranges comes into view and I honestly say the loudest thank you to God that I can because He has allowed me to experience one of the most breathtaking mountain views ever in my life. I can’t even believe how this was formed………where it was 50 zillion years ago, if under water, if not, if from a glacier, all that matters is that it’s in front of me and I get the privilege of SEEING IT in all it’s pre-sunrise glory.
Once off the bus to the PERRIER stop I say the usual Merci Monsieur Bonjournee and walk slowly down the steps. It’s an average oversized walkway – could be in Michigan, could be Saint Louis, could be in Lincoln Road, Miami Beach, but alas, it’s in Marseille.
I join the throngs of highschool students and wait patiently for the green man far away across the gigantic Prado Avenue. It’s green now and everyone crosses. A semi comes barreling down like it’s not going to stop and I know it better stop because I can’t stop and then I see one of the pedestrians waving to the truck driver as a “thank you for stopping” gesture and I’m thinking, “ARE YOU KIDDING ME?” He does NOT have the right of way just because he’s huge – it s’ OUR turn to cross and yet , you are THANKING him??? Yes, that is France.
I cross, survey my reflection in the store window that greets me at Perrier and Prado – see that my last night’s (huge) Indian dinner hasn’t brought too much more weight to my frame and cross onto the next cross street happily. …………..
Marble curbs, worn shiny from pedestrian traffic, reddish asphalt sidewalks, greet my steady pace and glancing sideways I see an Asian Gardien cleaning the steps of her apartment building furiously. It reminds me of something long ago. What? Oh yes, my mama who made me sweep the steps constantly before company came. Slowly, carefully, I climb the steep hill and can almost smell it. Smell what? Ooooh la la…….
if I could only transport that scent to this paper. It would be a bestseller.
IT is divine.
I walk in , – it’s crowded this morning. I see the display case and am momentarily sad because – where? where are the Amande aux Chocolate Crossiants.? This is the reason I have come in huge anticipatation, and do so only one time each week to enjoy one of the most sensual pleasures known to man. It is a tongue/nasal, oral “avoir bon gout” experience that keeps on until it lays sufficiently in the bottom of my stomach.
I ask the patissiere gentleman, “Oh! Do you NOT have ay of the Amande aux chocolate’s left?” —”Mais Oui” he says – and brings a fresh one out and shows it to me, then places it on my tray with a huge smile. Then he adds a steaming hot “cafe creme” as well. Thanking him, ” Merci Monsieur! Bonjournee!” – I take the tray as if I have just received the most coveted of ‘holy of holies” – ever. As I walk, I glance at it as if I’m disinterested as I don’t want the other patrons to know that I am secretly devouring it as I walk to my seat , this time in the back of Paul, because it’s too cool for me to eat outside. The Amande aux Chocolate Croissant does it for me, because it’s jumping in front of me now, doing ludicrous jumping jacks saying, “i’m all yours, I’m all yours, go ahead and devour me!!!!!!! I’m YOURS!!!! “ I look sheepishly above the heads of all those sitting and enjoying because I can’t believe this crossiant has come to life in front of a bunch of strangers like this.
Ah well, – I’ve found my seat. and……….
The sip of hot café crème is delectable and doesn’t even need one bit of sugar.
I put it down with a sigh. The croissant looks up at me. I look down at it. You have no idea the love affair going on at this moment. This is the ONE DAY a week that I allow this kind of pleasure and it’s almost more than I can bear. Should i pick it up now?
Okay. ….long enough. pick it up. Warmth and amande-y fragrance emanate from my trembling hand. My left hand slaps my right. It comes closer……….I close my eyes, I open my mouth, and then! Someone’s fricken cell phone rings with a rap tune breaking the moment.
Ahhhhhhhh…….I put it down, I sip the coffee and eye it closer. I repeat. It’s next to my lips now and – well, I’m afraid that i cannot explain anymore of this experience because there are children reading this and it would be – not for their virgin ears/eyes.
Suffice it to say, that the woman who wrote “French Women Don’t Get Fat” is full of it.
Because even though SHE says that French women go into patisserie and order this same thing and only eat HALF…… oh PLEASE!!!!!! That is just ridiculous. If you are given such a piece of absolutely drop dead delicacy, and every bite is like the first, and when it’s at the last teeny thumb piece size left on your tiny plate, the last possible piece is devoured joyously. And then, if that’s not enough, you start to pick apart your scarf for any remaining almonds that might have slipped down that way )- believe me, eat the ENTIRE thing and never NEVER look back.
It is more than worth it.
It’s not a Golden juicy Thanksgiving Turkey, nor any of all the side food baubles adorning it, but it IS my thankfulness amid much much more, today……….