It’s my fault really. I should have remembered from the last time I lived in you France. That there’s this way people talk about you. It includes sayings like, “Not everything has to be that hard,” or, “It actually doesn’t have to take two months to open a bank account.” I’ve even heard, “Seriously, just call The States and ask them how they do it. Call China.”
You are a special kind of foreign. Part of me is pleased, that you don’t ever want to fit in. But then there’s this other part. I am so exhausted by you. By all the weird people you create. There’s only so many rough slanders one woman can take, there’s got to be a limit to the leering men sitting down on the park benches, eyes fixed on you. Why are you all rambling? Stop saying things that make others feel uncomfortable, stop walking past me and swaying into me as you grin and bare your yellow teeth with that fag hanging out of your mouth, don’t let your dogs near me. France, there’s only so long that you will get by on this myth that the rest of the world, who has only visited you for no longer than three weeks at a time, has believed.
And there’s more than that. I like your pastry, I do, you really know how to use flour with your hands, you get the necessity of chilled dough, it makes sense to you to use almond and sugar and butter and then to add raspberries, you really do get that and I’m not taking that away from you. But have you heard of cake? And I’m not talking about gateau; that thin brownie-like-sponge you make in a tart tin. It’s cake. A moist, dense, gluteness mass of flour and oil and sugar covered with a quality butter infused icing.
This is why there is a place here that must have read that New Zealand Woman’s Weekly cake book that every New Zealand mother in 1982 bought. The one with the butter cream icing and the cake train on the cover? Except that they are American at Sugarplum and they call icing, frosting, which is ok considering there is moist coconut cake with caramel butter cream icing layered through it three times. And you can get it with a coffee filled with milk and you can sit there for as long as you like and France, you just don’t get that.
But then there are times when you let it rain and the sky kind of turns a silver grey and there are less people on the pavement, the Seine starts to rush a little faster, the honking increases, there is a slight breeze and for some reason you draw very few people to walk along your river. And it is in these times, like today, that I see again how there actually isn’t a myth at all, that you really do possess something of what you claim to, that there is actually something about you that made us all flock here, to a city that doesn’t understand cake or efficiency.
Sugarplum Cake Shop
68 rue du Cardinal Lemoine,