Somewhere during the 1985-86 school year, my Junior Year in France, I started my love affair with that rustic crusty miche of bread goodness made only and exclusively (then) in Paris in a tiny charming bakery on a sort of tiny street (the rue du Cherche-Midi) on the left bank of Paris: Poilâne bread.
When I took the plane back home to Texas in June 1986 after 11 months of student life in France, I was laden with the most ridiculous items, which never would make it onto a plane these days. I had about 6 carry-ons. But the most precious item of all, which I clutched closely to my heart for most of the trip home: a "miche" of Poilâne bread.
In that heavy, dense miche was embodied all my happy memories of a student life in Paris. Even more charming about a whole miche of pain Poilâne: each one is emblazoned with a giant P, for Poilâne of course, but for me that beautifully swirly font also evoked another P-word: Paris.
On this last trip in November 2013, after lunch at the Cafe de le Nouvelle Mairie over near the Pantheon, it hit me. Why not head toward Poilâne and bring back my own miche. [Would sure beat the $40 or so FedEx shipping price for getting that miche over here from France when I am feeling indulgent and order a miche on line.]
And so on a cold, rainy day in Paris, my last day there, I made my way to the rue du Cherche-Midi. Customers do not have to buy an entire miche. Indeed, it takes days and days if not weeks to finish one. There is a nifty device the salesperson can use to cut off the correct requested amount of a miche. My turn. I nicely ask for une miche. An entire one? Oui, s'il vous plaît. I look around. I notice there is more than bread and chocolate and butter cookies on the shelves.
I realize that Apollonia has done much more for Poilâne beyond carrying on her father's dynasty, as the New Yorker reported in this article last year. She lost both her parents in a tragic helpcopter crash in 2003, but carried on the buisness, just as she was leaving for university (Harvard). I felt the tragedy for the family, and a daughter losing her parents; I also wondered if this was the end of an era, a legend. What will happen to the bread?
Apollonia is a rock star in my book. A great poster child for shutting down any stereotype about the French not working hard.
At the boulangerie that day, I can see she is branching out, while keeping the bread intensely old-world and rustic (takes 6 hours to make one loaf) and yet continuing to make it in such vast quantities that crazed people like me myself and I can order it direct from France to arrive via FedEx chez nous.
This is the one I brought home with me last month.
Now they have these elegant pocket knives. I did purchase one. I'll wrap it for myself and put it under the tree. (One good thing about the aging process: I will almost forget it is there and still be delighted to find it Christmas morning.)
But more eye-catching: these fabulous bags. Imprinted into the fabric are rustic woodsy bits, like twigs from a forest, or the style of that paper in which each miche is lovingly wrapped.
I reached for one, confused on how I would choose just one to take home with me when each one was so lovely and distinctive. Once I saw the price, I was able to step back and just admire. Some other time. (It was about the price of once night at a luxury apartment.) But good job, Apollonia. Love the bags.
My miche and I got back home intact. It is like 1986 all over again. Except I am mindful of the carbs and am, thankfully, wiser though much older.
Despite the vow I made to make this one last, I got out the last chunk of it from the freezer today. Something about 27 degrees in Austin and listening to Paris jazz on the radio via TSF jazz, has me remembering, as only someone older and wiser would:
What am I waiting for? Life is short. Carpe diem. Eat the bread already!
And so I will. Bon appétit.