Correspondence from France

by Emma Wood – France

Yesterday I ate a whole baguette in something less than 10 minutes. Not only was it whole, but warm, and made from the soft part inside the wheat kernel that’s really nothing but sugar. This I learned from the boulanger who gave us Americans a behind-the-scenes tour of his shop; the place where briosch and baguettes are born. He rolled soft white dough as potters roll clay, telling us how he’d gotten up at 2:30 that morning, just like every morning; telling us four hours of sleep suffice because he’s never known anything different. “Been like that since my internship days,” he said.

I’m living amongst people who know their crafts well. In the evenings when I return home from la Fac, I pass a shoe repair shop where a man sits, one pair of black pumps in hand and 60 on the shelves behind him; a poissonerie where they’re dumping out ice bins that keep the scallops cold all day; a fromagerie lined with bricks of soft chevre. Everyone knows exactly where he fits into the scene.

I’m still wanting things the Whitman way—a little bit of everything, more the supermarket lifestyle than specialty shop. A little bit of salad bar, a little bit of soft serve. A little frat party with my activism, philosophy with my tea. I’m the girl who wants a taste of everything, who sits in French restaurants and orders mint ice cream and green salad with a cup of chocolat chaud. “Anything else, miss?” the waiters tease me.

And oh, there are so many flavors to taste, food-wise and otherwise. I wanted to run away with the skydiving crew I met at a tour of Mont Saint Michel. Last Saturday, it wasn’t skydivers but break dancers, a group who camp out with a boom box by the public library, dancing like human dreidels. (The spin on their heads with no hands! How?!) All these people have found their niches. Even that group of regulars at the Pourquoi Pas? Café. (It’s my running goal to choose a neighborhood bar and become a regular too!)

My prof at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts brought a show-and-tell art book last class: a collection of mini photos of people and the patterns they make from afar. Perfectly, yet obliviously, people arrange themselves in beautiful clusters.

I forget when I want to join every club that to each still shot there’s a rhythm, a history—that is to say, tandem jumps and weekends of training before that glorious jump through the clouds and daily beer tab at the Pourquoi Pas.

I haven’t become a skydiver or a break dancer, and I haven’t joined the circus (I leave that to Sebastion Grubb), but I’m finding my patterns: my euro-a-day flan, and that evening walk by the man in his shoe repair shop.


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