I am a dainty eater. Maybe discriminating is a better word. I don’t like to feel full, definitely not stuffed. I like to stop eating at the point where I feel sated but I might have a little more room in case something else is around the corner. Going to a restaurant with me can be annoying, occasionally I declare myself done after consuming only a third of what’s on the plate. I am specific about what I want….. no buffets, no overstuffed American-style plates that could feed a small village, no coffee in glass cups, toast must be buttered when it is hot- is there anything more depressing than unbuttered toast with a little-frozen package of butter on the plate?
I don’t mind eating alone in restaurants. Books are always a good prop, I like the freedom to eat slowly and focus on the food. Especially if I am eating something so exquisite that it will make its way into my food memory hall of fame. Memories I pull out with relish and such detail that I can almost recreate the taste in my mind. So, despite being a dainty eater, I love food. It’s that I am in such awe of those perfect bites; a moment on your tongue, swallowed and then gone- that’s why it’s important to pay attention.
People are always asking what I miss from Canada. Nothing really I say… but croissants. I didn’t even know how spoiled I was growing up in such an abundance of buttery lightness. My father would slip me a five dollar bill on Sunday mornings and send me to the family-run grocery store next door and I would come home with a half dozen croissants. This was our pre-breakfast… later would come brunch. The croissants were light and flaky, staining the brown paper bags they were served in and leaving crumbs between the plate and your mouth. These croissants didn’t need anything added; no jam or knives necessary- you pulled them apart with your fingers, the warm dough stretching and crumbling. Eating them was like not having a care in the world.
When my daughter was little and we spent summers in Montreal, we would stop by the bakery after day camp; an almond croissant for her and a plain one for me. We were such frequent customers that the counter girl visited us in Mexico a couple of years later.
Recently, a friend of mine was driving me through the streets of Oaxaca on our way to breakfast when, over the smell of exhaust and city fumes, I caught the beckoning odor of butter and baking. I turned and saw something fleeting out of the corner of my eye- a small doorway. I hesitated for a moment, like when you see someone you might know but haven’t seen for a while and you are not sure if you should say hi.
“Do you mind driving around the corner? Was that a bakery?” I said.
My friend drove around the block and double parked outside the small door.
“I’ll just be a moment,” I said.
Yes, the smell of baking and butter hugged me. Baguettes lined the walls like old friends. Not supermarket–style baguettes- these were long and thin like elegant Frenchwomen’s arms. Pastries sat in baskets in a glass case. One solitary croissant smiled up at me and whispered ‘bonjour.’ I ordered fast, randomly pointing to a focaccia, almond croissants, and a sourdough. All packaged up in brown paper bags.
Back in the car I pulled out the bag with the lone plain croissant and ripped off a piece for my friend.
“Here, try this!” I said stuffing a piece into his mouth as he drove, then I ripped off a piece for myself, leaving flaky buttery crumbs all over the seat. The texture of the croissant was perfect and when I put it in my mouth I thought… Am I going to have to share the rest of this? I did… but I didn’t want to.
Boulenc Bakery, Porfirio Diaz 222A, Oaxaca, Oaxaca, 01 951 514 0582
Open 8am- 8:30pm