Altered Tastes: Baguettes And Your Grandmother's Corpse

If you are serious about cooking or even if you are like me and failed out of cooking school, France is pretty much the motherland of cuisine.  Many of the foundations of professional cooking from sauces to restaurant structure have solid origins in French culture.   Try to have a serious conversation about cooking without using a French word.  I dare you.

View From A Cafe
My trip to France was revelatory on many levels.  Like a first time acid trip forever destroying your seemingly sufficient world-view, replacing it with a gigantic, important, awe-inspiring, utterly confusion nest of unanswered questions.  This amazing experience was broken up into two discrete parts: A week in Paris that culminated at a wedding, followed by a week of driving around and exploring the French countryside.

Paris smelled of piss and baguettes.  Architecturally beautiful, with parks and fountains.  The people were cosmopolitan cold... bordering on rude.  In other words, It's just like home, only sometimes it smells like baguettes.

The week in Paris had us staying in the Latin Quarter, just up the street from the open air market on rue Mouffetard.  The market was un-fucking-believable.  All of the classic French stalls were represented; Bakeries/Patisseries, cheesemongers and charcuteries:

It's like a sea urchin made out of fat coated duck legs.
Wine shops, fresh produce and of course, the crazy, space age, straight-out-of-a-Terry-Gilliam-nightmare frozen food store:

The Future Is Now. And It's Very. Very. Cold.
I would have had more pictures of this place, but photography is verboten.  Which is crazy because you'd think, in the future, everything would be photographed.  Anyhoo, the store had just about everything imaginable in frozen form.  While everything looked like it was of superior quality, I didn't fly across the Atlantic to eat TV dinners.

I came to go after the classics.  To return to the fundamentals.  And in France, I am pretty sure nothing is more fundamental than the baguette.  If you go baguette watching, you will see baguettes all over the place, walking their human pets through the narrow, winding streets of Paris.  Sometimes they travel in packs, but one thing is for sure... they are everywhere.

Which is awesome, because the baguettes I had in France were outstanding.  I could dazzle you with the incredible baguettes I had from Kayser or Le Boulanger de Monge, but even the worst baguette I had in all of France was, no joke, forty-hundred-quintillion times better than the best baguette I had ever had previously.   This has the immediate impact of essentially ruining every prior baguette memory of my entire life.  It would be like thinking you were having amazing sex only to learn that, in fact, you had been deriving pleasure from dry-humping your grandmother's corpse.  

I don't know what's going on in american bakeries, but it ain't baguette baking.  I am willing to concede that it is at least part geography, part culture, part technique and part apathy.  All I know is that since I have gotten back, every baguette I have had tasted bland. I could almost tolerate the taste deficiency if it wasn't also combined with a never-ending supply of uniquely disappointing crusts. 



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