When the children are finally in bed, the time comes. I have a shower, put on my pyjamas and then the moment of decadence arrives. My French desert.
I’ve been trying them all: the supermarket kind in glass containers, the elaborately constructed patisserie kind and the make-it-up-from-random-things-I-have kind.
It requires a certain degree of cunning. I have to try and buy these sweet wonders without either Delphine or Silas cottoning on. Of course, I do give them desert. But they’re happy with a plate of Christmas market biscuits. Or some of the chocolate granola (yes, they have chocolate breakfast cereal here) I bought but found too sweet, with cream drizzled over the top. But after a day of full-on parenting, I need something more. And in any event, some of these deserts aren’t PG rated.
Try for example, this evening’s Forêt Noire gateau. It should have come with a standard drinks rating. The cherries were so soaked in liquor I was thankful I wasn’t driving anywhere afterwards. It would have indeed been a kinder surprise.
Last night I put together my own creation. A “from-all-over-the place-trifle”: the base was the luscious chocolate flan from the dairy lady at my regular Wednesday market who sets aside a large natural yoghurt for me each week (so delightful to be a “regular” at just three weeks in). I then added crumbled up bits of pain d’épice (spiced cake) from last Saturday’s Christmas market at a small mountain village, and scattered over the top cherries in syrup from the lady at my regular Saturday market who reassured me that all of her products are chemical free.
“The way we’ve always done it. No chemicals, no pesticides. I don’t have the fancy ‘authenticated organic’ sign, it’s too much trouble to get the accreditation. But we’re all natural just the same. The way it’s meant to be.”
Then there are the more manufactured supermarket deserts that can really hit the spot too. The chestnut mousse with a sludge of chestnut paste at the bottom, for example. It gets sweeter as you work your way down, but boy, at the end of a hard day, a heady combination of fat and sugar is just the ticket.
I haven’t yet had the courage to try the other chestnut number I come across regularly in patisseries – the torche aux marrons. It’s not that I fear to take it on. In fact, I’m almost drooling to dig into it with my spoon. It’s more that it looks very precarious to take home. A rising spiral of chestnut mousse on a mysterious base (remember, I haven’t eaten it yet so I’m uninformed) that’s nestled in a cupcake case. It’s like the Matterhorn. But how to bring this delicate construction home without ending up with a chestnut smeared bag? I’m going to have to work at a solution.
Patisserie, supermarket or constructed-at-home, this solitary moment of sugar and fat, and complete quiet, is sheer bliss. A moment to finally stop and savour, not just the sublime flavours, but also the day’s experiences. It all comes at me so hard and fast during the day, I often don’t have time to take in all that’s happening. So this nightly ritual is a form of digestion, both of the sweet flavours of France and also the rich experiences of living here.