Sunday, June 09, 2013

for the love of the loaf

 If you don't care to read about lofty loaf decisions -- move on! This post is not for you!

As expected, today, the rains continued. Good, good, get them out of the way early, because once you get used to the lovely stuff -- the clear skies, the warm sun -- it's hard to go back to a gray world.

Besides, give me, for once, a chance to sleep in (I haven't done that since....probably January)!

Well now, sleeping in is fine, but I'm remembering the trouble with doing that while in Sorede -- the disappearing pain au chocolat! The local bakery runs out of it! Mon dieu!

And then a second thought crosses my groggy morning mind -- wait now, do we really want to pick up pain au chocolat at the old bakery in town? And not go to the cool bakery we discovered last year on the outskirts -- the one with the best baguettes IN THE WORLD?

And if we are to pick up pain au chocolat in town and eat them outside, at the cafe, then aren't we risking the disappearance of the best baguette?  Because, what if (oh no!), what if the best bakery in the world RUNS OUT? It's Sunday: the grocers, the bakers - they'll be open in the morning because everyone is still shopping for the big family meal, but everything closes after noon. That love of shopping that we have on Sundays? It never caught on in Europe. So what if we are left (oh no, oh no ,oh no...) without bread?

So I'm now wide awake thinking about strategy. Walk down for pain au chocolat in the old bakery, return for the car and drive for bread. No. What if there is no more pain or - God forbid, no more baguette, because we waited too long? Drive, period, to be safe? But we love the walk! My mind is spinning.

Ed, wake up, we have a decision to make!

In the end, when we head out, it is so late (10:30) that there's no choice but to drive to town. Predictably, the old bakery is out of pain au chocolat, out of Napoleons too, pretty much out of everything but the baguette (which we do not want from them). Still, it's nice to pop in there. To at least ask. To see that the vendor's son has grown a bit since last year.

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[So long as we're in the area, we make a quick detour to the meat shop, where we do not buy meat, but we do pick up some local anchovies...

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On our way there, I drool over a parked car -- the one I wish we had rented...]

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It is terrific to arrive guilt-free (we tried the local old bakery, we tried!) at the Fournil des Alberes.  A quick spin through the beloved countryside...

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...and we're there: at the shop of the best breadmaker of all time. (I see that he has just received a gold medal this year -- the Mercure d'Or -- one of only 24 small businesses in France to do so -- for his entrepreneurial accomplishments here, just three miles from my most precious village of Sorede.)

Outside, in the parking lot, a family is selling their homegrown apricots and cherries. Superb idea. They're riding on the coattails of a successful bakery and why shouldn't it be so? One success breeds another. Yes, that's the way to move forward!

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We buy their fruits as well. This is apricot season in the Languedoc region of France. And since this year everything is just a tad later than last year, we still get the local cherries, carefully selected and picked over, so that your little container wont disappoint you.

Inside the bakery, the energy level is high. Three people are serving the never diminishing line of customers and I see that Emmanuel Castro, the owner, isn't beneath providing assistance on a Sunday morning - he's right there with them, filling sack after sack of the ever wonderful baguette, packing up single pasteries, counting out change, throwing out a happy greeting to everyone who comes along. It strikes me that no one who walks away with a warm baguette looks grumpy.


It's worth waiting for, no matter how old you are.

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The line moves quickly -- two minutes and you're out.

But not us. We linger in their cafe over our pain au chocolat (in the photo below there is also the Napolean pastry wrapped up for later)...

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...and I watch the stream of humanity walk through and get their one, two, three, sometimes more loaves of baguette. Why do they need all those breads ? - I ask Ed... He reminds me - restauranteurs come here too. They walk away with sacks of the stuff.

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We walk away with just one. Kings we are, slated to have a lunch with the best bread ON THE PLANET!

Once home (let's call Sorede home for the next two weeks, okay? I'd like that...), we do decide to take a short walk. You're not going to see it through photos -- it was more of a functional stroll - to the village and back, but it was a good walk. A calm walk. And Ed did reconnect with the cat who once loved him (today the feline fiend was just mildly interested).

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(Further attempts to head out for walks were foiled by the return of rain clouds.)

Lunch. On the terrace. It did not rain, but even if it had rained - there is a roof over the table and we would have stayed, just because this is where we eat lunch. Bread, cheese, tomato, fruit. And if we're lucky -- as we are today, the Mille Feuille (aka Napoleon). And a meringue with pine nuts for me.


Nap, write, read, nap, write, read. In this way we come toward the dinner hour. At home. A mock (or maybe real?) Nicoise salad -- potatoes, beans, tomatoes, eggs, local anchovies. And endive because it's cheap, it's here and I love it.

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And another failed attempt at a walk. Another retreat. You could say that the weather isn't the best, but looking back on this day, I can't say that I have a single complaint. Not one.