Dispatches From Home: Day 148

This morning I woke up possessed by the urge to eat a croissant for breakfast. The timing of this craving was convenient, because the bakery down the street sets up a tent in the parking lot on Saturdays and sells coffee and pastries to passers-by. I’ve seen them there, with their arrows and “stand here” stickers and masks and hand sanitizer by the gallon. So today I put my own mask on and joined them in the parking lot, barely registering everyone’s theatrical sidestepping to ensure social distance that a few months ago would have made me feel panicky. This is just how we spend a weekend morning now.

I describe my croissant urge as random, but the truth is that earlier this week I read Mastering the Art of French Eating by Ann Mah and have been daydreaming about pastries ever since. It’s a fantastic memoir of her year alone in Paris, awaiting her diplomat husband’s return from an unexpected assignment in Iraq. Her descriptions of the food she ate and the loneliness she felt spoke to me; Adrian’s been gone for three weeks, and while this can hardly be compared to one’s husband being sent to a war zone for a year, some of the anxieties are the same. I’m lonely. Cooking for one doesn’t speak to me and I often end up eating scrambled eggs and toast for dinner. I take comfort in the fact that the bubble he’s living in is COVID-free so far, but I worry constantly about his safety.

Adrian and I spent three short days in Paris in 2017 on our way home from a wedding in Italy. The wedding was great, but I was itching to get to Paris, and when we finally made it out of Paris-CDG airport, we made the most of our brief time in the city: we devoured pastries, visited the street where my parents lived when I was born, ordered practically everything on the menu at a Michelin-starred bistro that was by chance open on a Sunday when everything else in the city seemed to be closed. We walked everywhere, enjoying unexpectedly perfect blue skies in late December. It was glorious.

The time goes by. Adrian will be home in a few weeks, which seem interminable now but will pass, as all things do. Maybe someday we’ll travel again; we’ll go to Paris and eat pastries that shatter into a shower of crumbs, and he’ll give me the last bite of his croissant because he knows that’s my favourite part, and we’ll get lost in a maze of streets and turn a corner to suddenly find ourselves at the foot of the Eiffel Tower, and we’ll laugh and laugh. Then again, our trip is so perfectly preserved in my memory that maybe it should remain undisturbed. Maybe, someday, eventually, who knows.

For now, I’ll have to content myself with standing in the bakery parking lot, shooing wasps away from my iced coffee, leaving with two loaves of bread destined for a week of toast-based dinners. It won’t be this way forever, but does that kind of thinking that ever make the moment any easier?

A Few Days in Montreal

IMG_8396.JPG(Pâtisserie Rhubarbe in the Plateau)

Although I grew up in the suburbs of Montreal, I never quite understood why people seemed to love and revere the city so much. “Montreal is so cosmopolitan! It’s just like Europe! Why would you ever leave?” people would exclaim upon meeting me. If it was, I had never seen it; my entire childhood consisted of soccer fields and attending school across from a nature reserve deep in the far reaches of the West Island. We went downtown once a year to do our Christmas shopping, but with the city all lit up for the holidays, it was difficult to get a sense of what it was really like.

I think I had to leave the city behind in order to learn how to love it. It wasn’t until I moved back to Montreal as an adult to attend university that I finally started to get the hype. I attended Concordia, located squarely in the middle of the downtown core. I worked on Ste-Catherine Street and in the Old Port. Suddenly I could start to see the appeal: everyone was speaking two languages interchangeably, there were cafes on every street corner, and amazing bread and croissants spilled out of every bakery I passed.

Continue reading “A Few Days in Montreal”