My Parisian pastry gluttony was wonderfully diverse. In the morning there was croissant or pain au chocolat or chouquette or tarte au sucre. Lunch was preceded by a stop at Poîlane, the famous breadmaker's shop, where I could not resist the pain aux raisins or tarte aux pommes (apple tart) or petits sablés. Next stop was at a café for the ubiquitous jambon-beurre (ham on a buttered baguette) and what remained of the Poîlane pastry with coffee. Dinner always included and sometimes simply was an éclair, Paris Brest, religieuse, or mille-feuille (curiously called a napoleon outside France), always some form of creamy, buttery sweetness. Sometimes I would even stop off for a palmier (a big puff pastry sugar-covered cookie) for my goûter (afternoon snack). As a student, I was living off things I could eat on the go. Hardly any greens were passing my lips, and my daily serving of fruit was coming from fruit tarts. I was eating this strangely lopsided fare without the slightest thought and with utter contentmentexcept, of course, for how I looked.
Now this was obviously not a diet I had picked up in America, where one could hardly say the streets are lined with irresistible patisseries (though then, as now, there was no shortage of tempting hot chocolate-chip cookie stands and sellers of rich ice cream, to say nothing of a mind-boggling variety of supermarket sweets made with things infinitely worse for you than cream and butter). But as I was to learn, it was my adoptive American way of eating that had gone to my head and opened me up to the dangers of this delicious Parisian minefield. For in America, I had gotten into some habits: eating standing up, not making my own food, living off whatever (n'importe quoi, as the French say), as other kids were doing. Brownies and bagels were particular hazards; we had nothing quite like them at home, so who could tell how rich they were?
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