One of my most vivid memories of Paris is not standing at the top of the Eiffel Tower or touring the opera house. No, the thing that often comes first to my mind when I think of Paris is the time we walked down the street knawing on baguettes we bought at Paul, a chain bakery a friend of mine later called “The French McDonald’s”. It was our second day in the city, and we were on a (incredibly disorganized) walking tour. We thought we looked so Parisian enjoying fresh bread, but I’ve since learned that it’s considered so American to eat on the go so I doubt we fooled anyone. But we enjoyed the snack that kept us from passing out in the heat as we reached mile ten that day.
I also remember visiting Shakespeare and Company the day after the walking tour – one of the most famous bookstores in the world located near Notre Dame. (You can read about this random guy who slouched all over me in the shop thinking I was in his group here.) I didn’t exactly need any more books, but when you’re an English major in Paris for the first time, you’d have to be an idiot not to buy something. So I did and later regretted not buying a tote bag, too.
Spending time in Paris reminded me that I knew nothing about the Fench Revolution which is always a topic I’ve wanted to learn more about (apart from what Les Miz has taught me – all set to a catchy score).
Enter The Beginner’s Guide to the French Revolution by Peter Davies whose cover features Delacroix’s Lady Liberty Leading the People (1830), a painting we saw earlier that day at the Louvre (so meta). I mean, how could I not get it?
At checkout, they asked me if I wanted them to stamp with their logo. Hell yes, stamp my book! I didn’t come all the way here to buy a stamp-less book like an idiot.
But in typical fashion, I read about three pages, saw something shiny, and left it to collect dust on my bookshelf. Adding it to my Books I Meant to Read list. I read it after that Marie Antoinette biography (for the sake of chronology), and then tried my hand at making French bread (a food I don’t know how to cook). And let me just say that Paul (the bakery chain or Hollywood) isn’t racing to hire me.
I used the recipe in Joy of Baking (that’s right- a recipe out of an actually book) which actually worked pretty well. Even if the loaves didn’t look particularly pretty. I think what went wrong was my over-kneading the dough so the loaves didn’t rise properly.
If you have any good French bread advice (everyone always does), let me know. I think I’d use the same recipe again, but not mix for the 12 minutes Joy recommends.
Anyway I think if the Champs-Élysées is not just around the corner like it was this summer, French bread is best enjoyed with Les Miz (That’s right Aaron Tveit [or Ramin Karimloo, depending on which adaptation you’re watching] To the barricades! With these delicious homemade baked-goods. No revolution is complete without baked-goods.) Or, you could just enjoy this from Key & Peele: