The Pâtisserie of Flers
Marcus Russo, upon being recommended to eat at the Pâtisserie, a French bakery specializing in desserts and pastries, in Flers during his tour of France, set out to satisfy his curiosity and see for himself why the Pâtisserie was deemed especially remarkable. Flers itself, though not too impressive, was a quiet, quaint little town, and rather enjoyable. The people there were few, but friendly, which was quite a relief from the crowds, noise, and chaos of Paris. Upon arriving, he liked the town so greatly that he decided to stay through the night, renting a room in a quiet inn, and eat at the Pâtisserie the next morning. The following day, after a brisk morning jog through the town, Russo arrived at the small, old-fashioned bakery, greeted by a little bell hanging over the door as he walked inside. As soon as he walked in, he noticed a certain scent which gave an overwhelming sense of nostalgia.
“Bonjour, stranger. May I help you?” said an elderly gentleman, obviously the only baker and owner of the establishment, standing behind the counter.
“Oui,” Russo replied. However, there was so many options on the menu that he had a difficult time deciding. What sounded most appetizing was the Marquise au Chocolat, though the Lemon Tartellete, Passion Chocolate Créme Brulée, Macaron de Paris, Verrine Dulce de Leche, Pavé Chocolate Cheesecake, and Pyramid Noisette all sounded so exquisitely delicious that Russo could not decide. So he then asked, “What would you recommend?”
“I have been told that my croissants are beyond compare.”
“Your croissants?” Russo replied in a mocking tone. Of all the many exquisite desserts the old gentleman could have recommended, he considered a croissant the most unlikely. “As I am staying in France for only a little while, I would prefer a dessert more ‘exotic,’ so to speak.”
“I say again, my croissants are superior to all desserts in France,” the baker again insisted, with much humility.
“You make quite a bold claim, monsieur.”
“Oui, and not unrequited,” replied the audacious baker.
“Very well then, I shall determine that for myself,” Russo said reluctantly.
“Bon, good. You shall not be disappointed,” upon which the baker turned, and, much to Russo’s amazement, opened a cabinet behind him, filled with some twenty differently colored plates upon which in turn sat two golden croissants already prepared. After briefly searching the shelves as if every plate of croissants were different and he were matching a plate to Russo’s particular personality, the baker pulled out a plate trimmed in a striped royal blue design. After he lightly drizzled the croissants with fresh honey stored in a glass jar, he set the plate before Russo when Russo had seated himself at a small, round table next to a bright window. Then, much to Russo’s surprise, the baker sat down at the table with Russo. Ignoring his host’s peculiar behavior, Russo preceded to taste the croissant. The first bite left him dumbfounded. The croissant had such a rich smell and taste as to invoke within him a profound feeling of awe. He was shocked to find that the croissant so perfectly embodied his desire to have an ‘exotic’ French pastry. He felt as if even the King would be perfectly satisfied with such a rich dessert. Though more than the taste of the croissant, was the smell and feeling which the pastry invoked. Russo came to the conclusion that he had never truly experienced a satisfying dessert until that first bite of the croissant.
“You were right,” he said, “I doubt that there is a more nobel dessert in all of France.”
After giving thanks for the praise Russo bestowed upon the baker’s prized creation and apparently satisfied, the baker then momentarily left the table to busy himself in the kitchen, leaving Russo to finish the two exquisite pastries. Before he had finished his last croissant, however, the baker again joined Russo at the table. The two then struck up a conversation, and after telling the gentleman all the places Russo had visited in France during his tour, Russo discovered that the baker’s name was Monsieur Poindexter, an odd name which Russo thought fitting for such an odd man. To his amazement, Russo also discovered that when Poindexter first opened his Pâtisserie thirty years ago, he had no previous culinary training.
“How then were you able to make such incredible pastries? And what led you to open a pâtisserie?” asked an amazed Russo.
“Through reading. I taught myself everything I know through reading books,” replied Poindexter. At first Russo thought the man was tricking him, but as Poindexter retained his serious composure, Russo highly doubted that the baker was capable of being anything but blunt and honest. Though Russo’s curiosity and wonder remained intact, he decided that he would be able to discover nothing more on the matter. Therefore, he once again thanked the eccentric baker, paid him a considerable amount of money in Euros, and made his way back to the inn. Throughout the rest of the day, Russo found that he could not bring himself to leave Flers without having discovered the secret behind such a powerful pastry. As he pondered over the mystery, Russo occasionally found himself wandering back to the center of town, where the bakery was located, glancing into the bakery through a window. But try as he might, he could not think of what could possibly cause the dessert to taste so overwhelmingly delicious when the baker had no previous experience. At last, after experiencing much frustration, Russo resolved to go back to the pâtisserie and somehow force Poindexter to give up his secret, if indeed Poindexter even had a secret to be withheld.
Upon once again arriving at the bakery, Russo decided that Poindexter would not willingly give up the secret to his success. Being six o’clock, PM, Russo was afraid that the bakery might not be still open, but to his relief, Poindexter did not close the shop until six thirty. Russo was so fixated upon achieving his goal that he hardly noticed the friendly little bell announcing his arrival. To Russo’s relief he saw that, just as in his first visit, he would not have to wait in any line, for a customer was leaving the bakery just as Russo walked into the bakery.
“Well, if it is not my doubting foreign friend Monsieur Russo, come in and be welcome,” greeted Poindexter.
“Bonjour, Monsieur Poindexter, how was business today?”
“Bon, good, as it always is. But come now, enough with this idle talk. You have come for another dessert, no?”
“Oui, I have. Two more croissant would be quite nice,” replied Russo, who was not entirely full after eating such a dainty French dinner that evening.
So Poindexter once again gave Russo a plate trimmed in royal blue with royal blue stripes upon which sat two, scrumptiously golden croissants lightly drizzled with honey. As Russo sat down at the same small table with the intention of thoroughly examining the croissant, Poindexter once again sat down with Russo. As Poindexter struck up a conversation, it seemed apparent to Russo that the baker never intended to leave the table. Nevertheless, this was compensated by the fact that the croissants were just as excellent as they were before. At last, Poindexter ended the conversation, saying that he needed to check on a small batch of fresh croissants in case any one else should come in. As Poindexter went into the kitchen, Russo was suddenly struck by the realization that the easiest way to discover the secret behind the croissants would be to watch Poindexter make the croissants. Thus, Russo quietly sneaked up to the kitchen door and peered into the round window.
Through the window, he could see Poindexter pulling out a small batch of croissants from the oven. As Poindexter left the croissants to cool, he walked over to a large cabinet which Russo had not previously noticed. What was inside the cabinet greatly surprised Russo, for though he had been expecting some rare tropical sugars, he saw only a cabinet full of perfume bottles. Though upon further examination, he saw that the perfume bottles were not only from France, but also from Italy, Germany, and many other foreign countries. Poindexter then, upon pulling out a striped royal blue bottle of perfume which Russo could tell by the label was of British make, opened up a cabinet full of plates all trimmed with a different design and color. Upon seeing the plates and the perfume together, Marcus Russo knew the secret to the magnificent food at the Pâtisserie of Flers. Rather than use a special ingredient, Poindexter used the smell of expensive perfumes sprayed on the plates to give anyone eating the croissants the sensation which each individual perfume provided. Russo never told anyone of his discovery, preferring to recommend the pâtisserie to anyone visiting France and leave each visitor to ponder over the mystery of the croissants. Russo concluded that day that Monsieur Poindexter was a genius, and the Pâtisserie of Flers contained the most magnificent dessert in all of France.