Beginner’s Luck


“It’s a new dawn,
It’s a new day,
It’s a new life, for me.
And I’m feeling good.”
-Nina Simone

May 4, 2014: Paris, France

The Saturday morning street markets in Paris are neither loud nor quiet, but simply alive. There are the sounds of early mornings everywhere: the sweet chirpings of winged things and the now and again passing of taxis on the cobbled avenues.  But the sounds most present are those of the market itself: the congregation of sellers and their wares, greeting the gentle morning with sensory abundance. There are blooms in soft colors and gentle shapes and fragrances so compelling you can’t help but feel they are involved in a subtle kind of Parisian coquetry themselves. Their ambrosial presence adorns what sweet and enticing aromas are already careening throughout the market and finding their way to my waking awareness. The mint and the spices, the panoplies of breads and cheeses, of vibrant and plump fruits and vegetables, including some of the quirkiest looking tomatoes ever beheld, even the fish and lobsters whose scent would normally make me grimace, all seem to clasp hands and say, “‘Bienvenue’, welcome to Paris you heartful girl.” Not even the cigarette smoke that seems to be forever hovering can desecrate the deliciousness of it all.  It is spring and everything about this day is inviting. This kind of newness is thrilling. It is one that I know I have seen over and over in my cognitive artistries, but has never taken shape in tangible life. And now I’ve found the second “never have” of my trip! (The first was waking up in Paris, naturally.)  Until today, I have never before experienced a morning street avenue market in Paris, and I don’t believe I have ever smelled so many variances of deliciousness all at once.



First quest for the day: to sink my teeth into the holy expectation I have placed upon all things authentic French pastry. A cab is hitched and its driver exclaims, “très magnifique!” when given her destination in broken but earnest French and with perhaps more alacrity than she’s used to receiving this early in the morning. Pierre Hermé is a boutique of confections, all of which so eyesome that perhaps some breed of human being might find it sacrilegious to eat them. But I am the breed of human being that would find it sacrilegious not to. The paradox of choice has never plagued me more than at this very moment. The strawberry-mango and citron tarts allure with their come hither glances, the pain au chocolats taunt, the kouign-amanns  bat their eyelashes…  I am completely beguiled. After as much cerebration and assessment of opportunity cost as I have perhaps ever executed in my 30 years, and as is granted me within the short moments I stand waiting in line, I resolve: fraise tarte au mangues (strawberry-mango tart) and a kouign-amann, in honor of my sweet Momma. (They are her favorite; maybe it will feel like a little part of her is here with me.) The square just down the rue (the French word for “street”; I prefer it so much more) seems to be the most idyllic spot for christening my taste-bud’s baptism into French confection. It feels quite consequential, really. There is an empty bench waiting; I sit. An ornate but seemingly defunct fountain stands imperiously in the middle of the square. I know nothing of its history, but I venture that it was not once as still as it is now. Nevertheless, it remains; undaunted, beautiful, and emblematic of what once was. People can be like that, too. Trees line the parameter and their happy pink blossoms mirror how my insides feel about everything here.


My first bite. OH. DELILAH. I am converted by this crust alone. It flakes and it melts and the strawberries, the mangoes, they burst into a conflagration of sensory ecstasy. I close my eyes to make it last longer, and also because I’m afraid that seeing it and tasting it at the same time might do me in forever, and I have so much more to live for (although this would be an exquisite demise). Do I dare even tread the kouign-amman’s confectionary terrain? Of course I do… {Slow, enraptured sigh}: It is all manner of crystally, buttery indulgence. I have tried some (what I thought were) worthy imitators back home, which I will now consider sophists after experiencing this piercing truth. I don’t ever want it to be over. I am always so sad when my food is over. With baited caution, I open my eyes again. This setting so reminds me of the end scene in The Age of Innocence: “It was a quiet quarter, after all, in spite of its splendour and its history; and the fact gave one an idea of the riches Paris had to draw on, since such scenes as this were left to the few and the indifferent.” I brush the decadence of crumbs off my fingers and hail a cab. There are more never-haves beckoning.

What did we do before “geo-tags”? Thanks to my iPhone, I learned later that the square was Saint Sulpice Square. The Saint Sulpice church was the first Jesuit church built in Paris in 1646. I love this rendition. It places quite nicely into my memory of the day.


2 thoughts on “Beginner’s Luck

  1. I wish I could send you some of those confections so you could taste them for yourself! They were quite literally the best thing I’ve ever put in my mouth. Thank you so much for reading, Enchanted April. (That’s a movie I watched about a month ago… I’m going to call you that from now on.) xo


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