Croissants are a Sham and Other Things I Believe Without Evidence

When I moved to France for a year, I had a splendid going away party, for which I attempted to order a large number of croissants from a local bakery. The baker was lovely, but he said he didn’t make croissants in his bakery, because they are hard; they require a lot of time and energy, and don’t always come out very well. Since he was not going to make his own, he didn’t want to sell them. He said the bakeries in the area that did serve croissants almost all purchased their dough from a single source and passed it off as their own–in other words, I’d do just as well buying grocery store croissants as going to any bakery in the area. An industrial bakery was making pretty good (or, at least, extremely consistent) puff pastry, selling it to smaller bakeries, and we all got to eat pretty good croissants as a result.

208055_5606696713_5996_n

A photo of me at my Bon Voyage. Croissants not pictured. I believe they came from our local Rainbow, RIP.

I can’t say I have a reason to disbelieve this information, but it was passed off to me twelve years ago (and memory is finicky), and I have not done any research whatsoever to verify this claim. However, every time I have a sub-par croissant in the Twin Cities, I say to myself, “They must make their own dough.” Also, every time I have a perfect, to a T, honest to goodness, French croissant in the Twin Cities (I have only ever had one at Patisserie 46), I say to myself, “They must make their own dough.”

I sometimes make similar assumptions based on the quality of croissants in other cities, guessing that the croissant racket it more or less the same throughout the country.

I did defer to an expert on this subject for the purpose of this post, and a former Patisserie 46 employee says that they do make their own croissant dough, further enforcing my bias.

____________________________________________________________________________________________

In preparation for my honeymoon, I messaged my host families that I would be visiting, and they asked me what food I wanted to eat. I told them I wanted Belcastel bread, Marcillac wine, and Aligot.

I have a very clear idea of this bread. It comes from a gigantic, round loaf, maybe 2 feet in diameter. I remember my host dad, Pascal, sending me into a bakery to order it on more than one occasion–instructing me on how to order just a section of it, instead of the entire, giant loaf. The crust is so dark, it is nearly black, and thick; thicker than any crust you’d see in the United States. The middle is spongy and nutty in scent and flavor. I imagined its size was due the medieval practice of villages having one communal oven. If you have to share the oven, why not just make one loaf and share it?

The bread Belcastel does not exist. There may be such a bread, as I have described, but it is not called Belcastel. There is no bread, nor any other food (not even wine), in France (or anywhere else) called Belcastel. There is a town by that name, in France, near where I lived.

Memory is finicky.

It appears I may have to abandon my belief that my favorite French bread is called Belcastel. Then again, the bread my host sister found, while similar, was not two feet in diameter and didn’t taste as good as I had remembered. So maybe my favorite French bread is but a memory, and I can accurately say, that Belcastel is still my favorite.

____________________________________________________________________________________________

At summer camp, a counselor once said that mosquitoes are attracted to people who eat bananas more than people who don’t. Friends, I no longer eat bananas. Also, I don’t like bananas, but like, what if she was right? I’m really avoiding two evils, the taste and texture of bananas and mosquito bites. If I do eat a banana, I eat it only when the last mosquito of the summer is dead, and the first mosquito of spring has yet to hatch.

This is convenient-to-believe pseudo-science, rather than something I wholeheartedly believe, but that doesn’t prevent me from acting on it and, occasionally, sharing it with others, despite doing so with caveats, like this.

____________________________________________________________________________________________

We make assumptions and believe things all the time with little to no evidence. While the word of the baker (someone who is probably an authority on the industry he works in) can be presumed to be reasonably correct, my memory of it, or even initial understanding, may be flawed to the point of misrepresenting it to myself and others over the course of more than a decade now. How many people have I told that Belcastel is my favorite French bread? Dozens. While I now understand why, even 12 years ago, my host brother Julien gave me a quizzical look when I told him that was the best bread, I never investigated further at the time. I told myself that I had pronounced it wrong or that it was not very common, but never-ever had I imagined that I simply got the name wrong. Had I never returned to France, I could have gone on wrongly telling everyone about a bread that didn’t exist.

These are inconsequential examples, amusing, even. At worst, they misattribute the work of a few dedicated bakers in the Twin Cities Metro Area, deprive me of a source of potassium, and make me look silly in front of my friends. There are a lot of other things we believe, spread, and act on that are of greater consequence. They might malign entire continents, races, genders, etc. They lead to job discrimination, alienation, and even cruelty from others.

I was able to challenge my belief about Belcastel, because I talked to some of the only people on the planet who would know for sure, a few people in France who live near the town of Belcastel. It’s a lot easier to tell if your socio-political convictions are true–things that are measured regularly, to a great depth. Use google. Read broadly. Meet new people. Ask yourself “does this opinion hurt someone in power or someone disenfranchised?” The answer will tell you a lot about how true it is as well as how harmful or harmless it could be.

Also, eat your bananas.

Naked

I like to sleep naked. This might surprise some people, scandalize others, and allure still others. Maybe I inherited it from my mom, who would try to make breakfast, wearing just one of my dad’s white undershirts, before the rest of us got up. Maybe I learned it from my older sister, who takes nudity on as a personal challenge.  I think I’ve seen her breasts more times than I’ve seen my own.

I didn’t always sleep naked. In fact, I was the one in my family who insisted on changing where no one could see me, who never let anyone in the bathroom with me, who would wait to get out of bed in the morning until my sister had already gotten up, so she wouldn’t see me strip down to my underwear.

The first time I slept naked, I was in France. It was the first time in my life that I had my own room. I remember slipping into bed. The covers felt cool and comforting. From then on, I slept naked as often as I could. I struggled with my self image, though. Over the course of about five months, I gained about 20 lbs. I had never considered myself pretty, regardless of my weight. But I learned to enjoy the vulnerability of nakedness, of waking up in the morning and seeing myself in the mirror without any clothes on. No one knew, and I didn’t tell anyone, but I was slowly learning to accept that I am a body as well as a soul.

In January of last year, I moved into a new apartment after sleeping on a friend’s couch for four months (if at all possible, avoid being homeless, but if you must, be sure to find a couch that belongs to people who love you).  I didn’t have any private space for four months. The first night I slept at my new place, I made sure to take off all of my clothes before getting into bed. I had a couple of weeks before my roommate moved in so I spent even more time naked, naked dish-washing, naked laundry, naked writing, naked everything. I do draw the line at cooking naked, because you will always regret naked bacon.

Then, something terrible happened. I got dumped. I felt torn in two, heartbroken. I could feel a pressure on my chest as I went about my daily routine, and getting ready for bed started with morose sighs and ended with me crying in the fetal position, clutching my Bible to my chest. But I couldn’t take my clothes off. I didn’t want to be naked. I wanted to be swaddled, safe. I wanted to reject the freedom that comes with letting my body into open space without any edits (even if no one else sees it).

Because, you see, I had learned to be vulnerable, and vulnerability costs something. Sometimes, it costs friendship. Sometimes it costs a job. Sometimes it costs a lover. However, refusing to be vulnerable is more costly. I may be able to avoid all the drawbacks like shame, and heartbreak, and fleeting moments of feeling worthless. Conversely, though, I cannot partake in the joy, peace, wholeness, contentment, connectedness, and love that vulnerability leads me to.

We don’t get to have any of the good things that we risk losing in the first place if we refuse to be vulnerable. And vulnerability, a lot of the time, feels quite a bit like being totally naked.

This is why I have decided to be naked, even though it is hard. I want to be vulnerable, despite a completely turbulent year, especially because it feels scary. Where there is vulnerability, there is beauty. Where there is beauty, there is strength.

 

In case you are wondering, I did write all of this whilst in a state of total undress.