The line stretched out of the Arsey Boulangerie and up the Rue Voltaire yesterday like a scene from Soviet Russia (man alive there’s some queuing involved here sometimes), and so I hit on this brilliant idea. I’d seen a Boulangerie Bio near the Canal Saint Martin that I’d jogged past a few weeks previous, and now seemed like the perfect time to sample its self-proclaimed, award-winning bread. Bio – from what I can gather – pretty much means organic here, and so does “organique” though you never see that written anywhere. My mouth salivated at the mere prospect of this delicious dough, even if Claire protested all the way there, and actually once we reached it it was a lot further than I’d anticipated. Do(ug)h!
We’d set off in search of the Holy Grail though holy fail inevitably awaited us when we arrived, like Chevy Chase at the gates of Walley World. It was closed for Sunday, much to my dearest’s chagrin as she’d insisted we stay at the A.B. only for me to overrule with my hot head and brilliant ideas. Back we went to the A.B., tail between our legs, three quarters of an hour stolen from our day that we wouldn’t get back.
Today I was determined to give this bread a go – finally – and so I set off again to the canal only to find the award-winning bread costing in the region of €9 a loaf. No wonder it’s award-winning, and made from angel jizz I wouldn’t wonder. What a crock, monsieur! What a bloody swizzle! No wonder they call it “pain”. Four-nil to the arsey fournil (that’s French for bakery – check me being hilarious in two languages).
Regular readers of my blog may not realise this, but I’m no foodie. It’s difficult to believe, I realise, given that I never shut the fuck up about bread like there’s nothing else more interesting in my life (shhh, don’t tell anyone). Just last week I interviewed Gesaffelstein – immense pioneering technohead and Kanye West collaborator – and given that he’s from Lyon I thought I’d ask him about food. Lyon, for those unaware, is the gastronomic capital of France, which is the gastronomical centre of the universe according to people who know about this stuff.
“Have you been to Paul Bocuse?” he said excitedly, “he’s one of the best chefs in the world and he comes from Lyon.”
No, I told him, such food to me looks like an elaborate ruse to dispose of entrails and pretend they’re something exotic without having to throw them directly into the dustbin. When I visited I ate tartine – the French version of cheese on toast – for every meal.
Being a vegetarian in France can be difficult, though I’d say Paris has got much, much better even in the last five years. There are bio foodstores like Naturalia all over the city and there are some excellent vegetarian restaurants too. Only occasionally will you walk into a place which doesn’t have anything sans viande on the menu. My absolute favourite is Asian cafe Vegebowl on the rue de la Boule Rouge, right near the Folies Bergère, which does these meat substitute dishes like you wouldn’t believe and is pretty cheap all things considered. You’d think a trip to la Folies Bergère – the venue where Josephine Baker became an overnight sensation in 1926 – might be in order after the meal, but no, all you’re likely to see at the Folies Bergère now is Scooby Doo in 3D.
One difference between food in London and food in Paris is this, most meals in London are pretty good… in Paris they’re either out-of-this-world delicious or the most atrocious thing you’ve eaten all year. We went to a tapas on Rue des Vinaigriers the other day called La Paella, and truly I’ve swallowed more nutritious snot when I’ve had a cold; the asparagus was abhorrent, the tortilla truly reprehensible. Claire said the calamari was slimy, and given it was an octopus I would have thought that would to have been expected, though it was terrible enough that she complained in a restaurant for the first time in her life and got it struck from the bill. We left there feeling terrible, we’re English after all, and complaining in a restaurant just isn’t in our DNA.
On Thursday we’re off to the Loire Valley for a few days and I’m really looking forward to it, but we’ll have to see how we fare with the local fare (I have to say I’m not brimming with confidence).Follow @jeres