The Chausson Death March
MTM and I have a tradition. We do not spend family holidays with extended family. Thanksgiving always finds us in a random spot, scrounging for a repast that mimics the place. For Thanksgiving week, I will write a series of posts set in places we’ve visited to flee the obligatory family meal. Some fiction. Some true. A whole lotta gluttonous food. If this is your first visit to this series, please click here to taste the flavors from the beginning.
Being married to an architect who works as an urban designer can be a glorious learning experience for the unschooled spouse who lacks design training and culture. It can also punish the feet. Not only does the architect stop every fifteen seconds to look up at invisible details (the head of a screw, a recessed light, a fragment of ironwork, the surface of the stone), but he also trudges around urban blocks and swaths of cities studying design DNA.
I found myself trapped in this circular, infinite march of death on Thanksgiving 2007.
We were in Nancy, France, our single day to see Place Stanislas, a behemoth urban space designed and constructed in the 1750’s to honor Stanisław Leszczyński, father-in-law to King Louis XV and ruler of the Duchy of Upper Lorraine. On Thanksgiving morning, I awoke to find MTM with a plotted map. He located numerous squares and urban spaces of interest in Nancy, all within walking distance of our hotel. One big Place morphed into who-knew-how-many baby Places, all significant to urban designer types.
We ventured into the chilly, spitting rain. MTM’s almost-skip and focus on his itinerary told me I was in for a million steps that day. I was tired. I was cold. Most of all, I was hungry in that attractive grouchy-famished way that MTM – and all men – blame on ‘female issues.‘
We rounded one corner, and I sighed with a heaving burst of hormonal ire. “I am TOO HUNGRY to go on like this!” I whined. (Yes, I know. We just started.) With seething lady-challenged resentment, I drew breath and prepared my Bargaining Speech, when the perfume of hot pastry invaded my nostrils. I kept my mouth open, my ravenous hormones demanding that I follow the scent.
“I am going to walk a bajillion miles today. It’s Thanksgiving. Every time you drag me past a bakery, I’m buying a pastry, and I’m going to eat it and smear it all over my face and lick my fingers in public and chew with my mouth open because eating pastry all day will make my hormones, I mean ME, so happy!!” Before MTM could say anything, I flounced into the patisserie and selected a croissant amande, topped with a magical fairy dusting of powdered sugar. It almost disappeared before we rounded the corner.
Mon Dieu! There was ANOTHER bakery! “Hold this, but don’t you dare eat it,” I ordered MTM before wandering into the shop and asking for a flaky, luxurious pain au chocolat.
Two-fisting, we call it in America. I did it all day. Creamy profiteroles drizzled with chocolate. Layered plain croissants I pulled apart section by buttery section, marveling at their airy perfection. Sticky chausson aux pommes, fragrant apple filling oozing through my fingers and down my grinning chin. And, the ultimate: delectable palmiers, layers of pastry drizzled with sugar and baked to crispy nirvana.
A food-gasm. It was just the sort of Thanksgiving experience I needed to set my world aright. Happy Thanksgiving Eve!