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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.

Whatever.

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!

It's surprising I fit in the frame........

36 Comments Post a comment
  1. This is your heaven on earth and the Shadow Ninja can go look at all the fun Archi-techie goodies in Chicago, which is apparently some kind of Nirvana for those of his ilk.

    http://www.tripfilms.com/playerservices/flashplayer_v2.swf?videoID=70392&tag=TFEMBED&autoPlay=falseWatch more Paris videos at tripfilms.com

    November 23, 2011
    • MTM lived in Chicago for 6 years, Lou. It is always a treat to visit with him, because he knows all the hidden gems and strange interior spaces. Last time, he even showed me a building he worked on downtown, with the specific parts of it that he did.

      November 23, 2011
  2. Your stories have been tasty. Tomorrow will be my food-gasm.

    November 23, 2011
    • I already know what I’m having tomorrow, and i will be unusual. Not a food-gasm. I hope you and Patrick have a gorgeous day tomorrow!!

      November 23, 2011
  3. Your doing it again! Making me hungry that is. I love croissants, and can’t decide which of the ones you are describing I would like the most. Guess I would just have to go try them all.

    So, did you ever give MTM even a small bite of one? Did you at least make sure some flaky crumbs or powdered sugar landed on his spotless black attire?

    November 23, 2011
    • I guess this is a really mean breakfast time post, isn’t it? At least, you can take comfort in the fact that I cannot eat stuff like this anymore without discomfort, so it’s killing me, too. :)

      Don’t feel sorry for MTM. He started picking out his own pastries and eating them right along with me.

      November 23, 2011
  4. Wha???? How come you get to eat and I gain weight just reading your blogs? Crap! My pants just tightened as I read your blog and I swear I gained a muffin top.

    Good thing your writing is worth it. Loved your descriptions (obviously or I wouldn’t have gained weight by just reading…)

    Happy Thanksgiving Andra. Hopefully we will get to hear the wonderful tasty bits you ingest tomorrow. ;)

    November 23, 2011
    • Hormones probably don’t even excuse this orgy of pastry, Lori. And, I seem to gain weight just by breathing these days. :)

      Happy Thanksgiving Eve to you. I hope you get off early.

      November 23, 2011
  5. Now I am hungry and homesick… In Pecharic et le Py, the village was too small for shops, so the boulanger van would come in the mornings… unavoidable temptation, right outside the door, without even the excuse of touring architecture!

    November 23, 2011
    • A VAN OF PASTRY?????? SERIOUSLY???? Did people run after it screaming for it to stop? Or try to cause it to break down in an effort to eat the contents? Good grief. Why hasn’t someone thought to do this in America? The ice cream truck doesn’t hold a candle to it.

      November 23, 2011
  6. Thank heaven I’d already eaten my “regulated” breakfast before seeing this post. Pastries and the like have always been my downfall . . . (the drooling on my desktop is not attractive). :-)

    Someone of your acquaintance made a reference to Glazed (I wish that place had existed when I lived there) in her comment to one of your posts a week or so ago; a Pastry Van might be a logical extension for that business to consider. Maybe you could contrive a partnership, and develop a gluten-free line?

    On the other hand, I think I’d prefer that you just keep writing and sharing your delicious tales.

    November 23, 2011
    • Glazed is three blocks from my house, Karen. I don’t even darken the door when I walk by there, because it’s too much. I can still eat my weight in French macaroons. :) We have a doughnut van here now called Diggity Doughnuts. A pastry van would be the end of me. Inevitably, I would eat it anyway and have perpetual stomach discomfort.

      I hope you can work some pastry into your Thanksgiving Day equation. :) There’s still time to have it on hand for tomorrow morning.

      November 23, 2011
  7. Your comment about smearing the pastry all over your face and chewing with your mouth open made me laugh out loud! What a fantastic piece of writing :D Have a great Thanksgiving tomorrow, my American friend!

    November 23, 2011
    • It’s so great to hear from you!! How have you been?

      Thank you for the well wishes. I hope you have a lovely day in Canada.

      November 23, 2011
  8. Sounds like a great experience! You’ve inspired me to do some two-fisting tomorrow myself!

    November 23, 2011
    • Dave, may you have an awesome Thanksgiving Day, two-fisting and all. And may those horrid politicos give you lots of ranting fodder. Happy Thanksgiving!!

      November 23, 2011
  9. You conducted your own examination of Nancy – via its pastries! And much as I love the wonders of architecture, I believe I like your research better. :) Have a wonderful, unconventional Thanksgiving!

    November 23, 2011
    • Almost nothing on earth is better than examining architecture with my fist full of pastry. :) I hope you have a gorgeous Thanksgiving. If you see your grandmother, please give her a big kiss from me. Your graveyard post made me want to meet her.

      November 23, 2011
      • It’ll be easy to pass a kiss along to Gram; she lives with us! She is a game travel companion, lol. I see in another comment that you are meeting Kate and Phil – lucky you! Please give them a hug and hello from me, too.

        November 23, 2011
      • Will do.

        November 23, 2011
  10. What a way to “whistle while you walk!” YUMMY!

    Can’t wait to hear where you end up this year ~ Paris? Rome? Fisherman’s Wharf? The local dive bar?

    November 23, 2011
    • I think I jiggled while I walked, Nancy. But, I don’t regret it.

      We’re visiting friends in England. And, we’re meeting Kate and Phil on Monday night.

      November 23, 2011
    • AWESOME! Enjoy your visit and have fun meeting Kate and Phil. That sounds terrific.

      November 23, 2011
      • We think so too… :-)

        November 23, 2011
      • We are both excited to meet them. MTM loves Kate’s wit, as do I.

        November 23, 2011
  11. Pain au chocolat! *drools uncontrollably*
    I love your approach. I may adopt it in the future.

    November 23, 2011
    • I think I gained weight writing this post, Kate. ;) if you decide to try it, you must share the experience.

      November 23, 2011
  12. To think I’ve lived in France for nearly 22 years and NEVER EVER EVEN THOUGHT ABOUT DOING THIS! Where have I been!

    Can’t wait for my next trip to a big town. :)

    November 24, 2011
    • Please write about it for me. No pastry tastes quite like French pastry in France.

      November 24, 2011
  13. What I love more than anything about this post is the great photo, proof that sometimes, having what you want, even when it is butter saturated pastry, can make you more beautiful. You positively gleam in the photo.

    November 27, 2011
    • Butter enhances the skin. Remember the Seinfeld episode where Kramer took baths in a vat of hot butter?

      November 27, 2011
      • Hah! Had forgotten that. Paula Deen is one of those along with Julia Child who believe a little of butter makes everything better.

        November 27, 2011
  14. Amber Deutsch #

    Ya know, I’ve been away for a while with work demands, and I miss all the food posts. Sigh. Now I have a dillema – do I gorge on all of them now, stuffing myself with words and images, or do I dole them out to myself, one or two a day, and catch up next week? oh the humanity!

    December 1, 2011
    • I wondered what happened to you, Amber. In a way, you inspired this series. :)

      December 1, 2011
      • Amber Deutsch #

        I sure am enjoying it – a feast for the eyes, a buffet for the soul. And I have a good excuse to run off and snack afterward. I am excited about the rest of the series, which I hope to catch up on tonight and tomorrow. mmmmmmm

        December 1, 2011
      • I hope you enjoy them as much. xo

        December 1, 2011

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