After work I did my grocery shopping, and treated myself to an Ace Bakery baguette. It's the closest you can get to the real thing, and it's very, very good. As I walked home with the baguette under my arm, I did something I haven't done in years, probably because I don't buy a daily baguette. I broke off some bread and ate it. Delicious. The crust was perfection and the inside was not too dense. A blast from the past ensued. I remembered walking to the bakery three minutes away from where my aunt lived in Pavillon-sous-Bois, just outside of Paris in Le Raincy, and buying the bread, sneaking in a chocolate truffle, and my aunt's preferred mineral water, always but always in glass bottles. She didn't like plastic. I remembered the daily 4 p.m. goûter (snack) of pain au chocolat, a chunk of baguette and a piece of dark chocolate (this is the origin of the croissant stuffed with chocolate). You pulled open the bread and inserted the chocolate, basically a chocolate sandwich. The thing about a true French baguette is that it's light and airy inside, full of air bubbles. So, if you're eating with me and you see me pulling out the meal from inside the bread before I eat it, that's where it comes from. It's a lifelong habit, a reflex.
Photo: Philippe Gaudet