Brutal: Surviving the Pastry, Chocolate and Bread Shops of Paris

August 26, 2011 § Leave a comment

Somewhere in Paris

Today I was invited to meet somebody chez Angelina (226 rue de Rivoli, 75001 Paris). I never would have gone there on my own as it is packed with tourists and over my budget. If I am going to spend that kind of money on a cup of tea and a desert, I will do it somewhere calmer. Or, my real preference is to bring the pastry back to my apartment where I can eat as I like it-in bits and pieces over the course of a day or two, accompanied by a glass of red wine, which I am sure goes against every French sense of decent behavior. Since I had been invited, I had a green tea and a Tarte Citron which was too creamy and not tart enough for my taste so I did not finish it. The tea was nothing special either. But the company was good and I am always so appreciative if somebody treats me to something I would not have done for myself.

After, since I was only about a block away in a neighborhood that I do not otherwise frequent due to the touristy mobs, I felt compelled to visit a chocolatier I had recently read about, Jean-Paul Hevin (231 rue Saint-Honoré, 75001 Paris). There, I bought my first French pastries since arriving in Paris a few weeks ago. It was late in the afternoon and the pastry case was almost bare, yet it still took some serious consideration to decide, particularly because there were three different dark-bitter chocolate mousse possibilities. I ended up with a Choco Passion because passion fruit is one of my very favorite flavors in the world, and mixed with chocolate, is one of my ideas of heaven. Then, because it was incredibly beautiful in its rich reds, purples, blues and mauves, I impulse bought a Tartellete aux 4 Fruits Rouges (this image does it no justice, nor do the ones that I tried to take). Despite purchasing these beauties, I have not yet tasted either one so I cannot report on how they live up to my expectations.

My real weakness are croissants, and I have not yet had one though I am saving up, starting a list of where the best ones are sold, and trying to figure out when I will begin to allow myself to savour one, probably once a week. So what is so brutal, why all this avoidance of some of the very best that France in general and Paris in particular have to offer? Well, the consequences of course, which for me, as someone who is short and seems to gain weight just by looking at rich foods, are distressing at best, devastating at worst. Despite exercising about one hour every morning, plus walking extensively and maintaining a quite sensible diet of oatmeal, almond milk, tons of fresh vegetables and fruits, chicken breast, seafood, hummus, lentils, salads, whole grain crackers, peanut or almond butter, almonds, quality dark chocolate, plain yogurt, the occasional bit of cheese or whole grain pasta or red meat or honey as sweetener, maintaining my weight, much less losing the five or so pounds that I would love to say goodbye to for good, is a constant struggle.

More than that, hopefully without sounding ridiculously melodramatic, it is a constant source of heartache for me. I suppose some unfortunate combination of genes, age, appetite and bad luck put me in the uncomfortable and confusing category of being borderline overweight (literally, the ideal BMI for a woman goes up to 24.9 and overweight begins at 26 and I usually calculate at 25-BUT these calculations do not take muscle mass into account and I do have more muscle than the average woman, certainly the average woman on any Parisian street). So I am always seeking to achieve some balance between allowing myself to enjoy the enormous pleasure of tastes that Paris has to offer, with the intense exercise and otherwise very sensible diet that will keep me from ballooning, even if I indulge fairly minimally as I have since arriving in Paris.

Tonight I will taste each of my pastries. Tomorrow morning I will do a high intensity cardio workout plus some strength/resistance training. And one day soon I will luxuriate in the eating of a flaky, buttery, creamy, croissant without guilt. Life is too short and I am trying hard to learn how to spend more of it feeling happy and satisfied.

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