Learning New Words & Roads

May 26, 2011 § Leave a comment

I, like most of my friends, tend to devour books and podcasts just about as quickly as I consume my favorite foods. As if it was scarce, I hungrily—greedily—listen to Radio Lab and The Splendid Table. Scour the library for new covers. Download new music and wear my headphones around town, scanning windows and newspaper headlines—constantly looking to sponge up some new bit of information. Nothing feels like enough. I wake up and listen to the Writer’s Almanac. I read my Gabrielle Hamilton memoir. I memorize grape varietals in France. I listen to Rural Alberta Advantage, and bop out the door in search of more stimulation for my eyes and ears. Oh, and taste buds.

Having run out of paper, I’m making my drawings these days on paper towels. Bleeding through the tissue, my Sharpie outlined the shapes of the delicious morsels I tasted at a bakery I’ve never visited before: Patisserie 46.

As I wiggled my way back into this Minneapolis neighborhood, I realized I’d been there before. Two or three years ago, I ate at Café Ena on Valentine’s Day, which is just kitty-corner to Patisserie 46. Now the little 4-cornered block looks much different. Feels different, too.

I arrived early so that I’d have time to study the pastry case (I’ve done this enough where I know I need to factor in at least 5-7 minutes of decision-weighing time). I pined and crooned over all the little darlings in the case as I waited for my friend to show up. You can see the little pastries on the bottom shelf—just gorgeous little sculptures made of butter, sugar, and chocolate. As my eyes climbed the shelves, the baked goods became more and more familiar. Chocolate chip cookies and macaroons. Croissants and scones. Beyond the case there were baskets of baguettes and gigantic boules of thick, crusty breads dusted with flour. I was beside myself with joy. You cannot imagine.

Within the first 2 minutes, I knew I needed to have a chocolate chip cookie. The three people in front of me all ordered this item. “It’s crunchy and chewy,” the woman behind the counter said, eyebrows raised. Wow. Sign me up. Just then, my friend arrived and we set to work selecting a good sampler platter of sweets. As my friend, John would say, “This does not suck.” I ordered my chocolate chip cookie and a “chocolate bouchon,” which was like a little cupcake-brownie with candied oranges and bits of soft chocolate inside. As Usher would say, “Yeeeaaah, man.” or “Oh, oh, oh, oh—oh my gosh.” (I went to an Usher and Akon concert this weekend; it’s still fresh in my mind.) And my friend ordered our joint favorite item: The Patisserie 46 Brownie. She also ordered an almond financier. New word learned: financier, which in the world of baked goods, refers to a little spongy cake made with almond flour, crushed almonds, and/or almond flavoring. They’re supposed to be called “financiers” because they’re about the size of a little bar of gold. Either that, or because they were once popular in the financial district of Paris. New words acquired, new roads discovered. My friend and I exchanged bites of the sweet morsels between us and swapped stories and recent news in our lives. It was hard to concentrate with that brownie just hanging out. When we’d licked the plate clean, it was easier to communicate.

Newness. Ch-ch-changes. It can be something you devour like an almond financier. But unlike the light texture of that cake, new changes in life can be as dense as a fudge-filled brownie.

I’m trying to sort through some varying textures. The ones I’m looking most forward to are airy as chocolate mousse. While I’m digesting life’s flaky croissants and modest coffee cakes, I’ll likely be making my way back to Patisserie 46 to try the rest of the bakery case’s contents.


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