The crumbs of the baguette flew everywhere like a welder in his shop throwing amber sparks every direction, the sparks bouncing on the floor haphazardly and landing in ever imaginable crevice. A crumbly baguette is just the beginning of the adventure.

The tastes of France are regarded as the finest in the world by some of the leading gastronomists (food critics). The national cuisine developed primarily in the city of Paris with the chefs to French royalty, but eventually it spread throughout the country and then to even the lowly student population (Praise the Lord).

I described the sounds of France in an earlier post, and I think it fitting that I move through the senses so one who has never experienced another culture can fully appreciate all that goes into living in a culture outside your own familiar one. Sounds are very important to a culture, but tastes are just as important. Everyone, you understand, needs to eat.

Because I am a student, I have been forced to be economical in my culinary experimentation, but I have discovered some of the finest foods I have ever had the pleasure to digest even in the short month I have spent in France. Pain au Chocolat and I first became friends when my friend Laura Vein made a batch on her trip home to North Dakota. Since then, I have entertained a love affair with pain au chocolat (translated: bread and chocolate). When you touch a pastry such as pain au chocolat, it bows under your finger’s touch. But when your mouth encounters the buttery, flakey pastry, the millions and millions of tiny sheets of pastry crumble simultaneously and melt in your mouth. Inside the pastry the soft doughy center is accompanied by two long sticks of very dark chocolate. They give a small and very contradictory crunch to what you have eaten thusfar and melt in your mouth with the rest of the crumbly exterior of the Pain au Chocolat. If you’re lucky, you wind up covered in tiny crumbles.

Pain au Chocolat

There is nothing better than walking to class eating an apple. Ah yes, those fine apples from the vineyards of France that are advertised in the markets and sold at shocking low prices… they are the purest forms of nutrition I have found, next to the Moroccan Clementines that seem to be the French version of crack. The juicy fruits found here are delightful. The apples, when you bite into them, emit such a juicy explosion that you are immediately compelled to lean over and let the juice dribble off your chin lest it run down your shirt. The clementines, the most curious little fruits ever beheld are just as pithy as a full-sized orange yet are so much more easily peeled as so be exponentially more addictive than an orange. You blink and kablam–you’ve eaten eight clementines. The little segments explode with a pop between your teeth so much so that they seem to say “wake up!”

The air here seems to be purer, fresher and more “gulpable.” This morning, I woke up and flung open my windows. I so deeply desired to jump on the next bus to the beaches and soak in the salty, tasty air of the ocean that it was almost more than I could do to remain in Caen and go to class instead. It’s a spring-time air that anyone with winter-fever inhales and tastes with a deprived hunger.

So, next time you desire a taste of France and this exquisite culture, fling open your windows, gulp the morning air and sink your teeth into a beautiful French pastry. Soak in the sunshine, wear a pair of cute shoes and love life. It’s la vie en rose after all!