“I’m so bored. I hate my life.” - Britney Spears

Das Langweilige ist interessant geworden, weil das Interessante angefangen hat langweilig zu werden. – Thomas Mann

"Never for money/always for love" - The Talking Heads

Monday, September 28, 2015

the essential problem with american patisserie - a snobbish pov

In one of his most famous poems, Baudelaire writes of the albatros who is captured by sailors and held by a rope on board ship, unable to fly, and so mocked by the crew, now by a poke, now by some sailor imitating his limping walk. For Baudelaire, this is the very image of the poet:

Le Poète est semblable au prince des nuées

Qui hante la tempête et se rit de l'archer;Exilé sur le sol au milieu des huées,Ses ailes de géant l'empêchent de marcher.

For me, this is the very image of a man stuck in Los Angeles, remembering French boulangeries.
It isn’t that America has any reason to have suck pastries. If you read about the donut, the ur-American pastry, it evidently derives from the same family as the beignet, and all kinds of European fried flour goods. So what happened to it? Somehow, there was a split in the development of pastry, with the Europeans intent on inventing ever lighter, ever more complex pastries, and the Americans intent on creating ever denser, ever mono-sweeter pastries. To want something other at some point would expose the poor decadent American who expressed such deviance to a milieu des huées, and from there it is just a hop skip and a jump to homosexuality and drug taking, as any good Republican knows.
This is not to knock all American cuisine. In Paris, one longs, like a poet, for good coffee – although as numerous articles in the NYT over the last five years have pointed out, Paris has become a hot spot of expatriate baristas, who are slowly weening the french from that simplistic concotion they call expresso (not to mention the horror of Nescafe served as coffee – it happens!). However, I’m old enough to remember (a phrase I seem to increasingly use. Funny, that) when American coffee at its finest was a can of Yuban. Perhaps the greatest contribution of hippy culture to the American scene (besides the Monkeys) was an increased awareness of ingrediants and non-industrial cooking. The completely irritatiing foodies are the result, on the one hand, but on the other, the level of American eating has gone up, at least among the aspirers.

This is why I find the donut a puzzle. The donut shop is omnipresent in American life – hence, the network for distributing a better beignet exists. But where is that beignet? Donut shops, when they respond to what they think is public demand, are concerned to advertise less calorific varieties of donut. I, on the other hand, suspect that donuts are one of those serial foods, like popcorn, so that the calory profile of one donut is not exactly helpful. What is needed, of course, is to attack that serial pattern, to make a donut that is completely satisfying in itself. Patisserie, ladies and gentlemen! I humbly ask this on behalf of all albotrosi  

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