When I was 15, I went on a school trip to France. Our first stop was in Paris, where we stayed at a cute old hotel near the opera house. There was no elevator, so we carried our overstuffed suitcases up and down five flights of narrow stairs with much complaining and giggling. I’m sure the other hotel guests were pleased with us.
Breakfast was served in the basement of the hotel. Dark wood, low ceilings, ancient carpet and creaky wooden chairs would probably be cute and kitsch to me now, but at the time it just seemed old. It was decidedly dark. We could barely see what we were eating, nor how much sugar we were putting in our coffee in the morning. How our chaperones managed two weeks with us, I have no idea.
Each table was served with a basket of vienoisseries: croissants, fruit danishes and what we thought were raisin rolls. Everyone fought over the croissants, slathering them with butter and jam. Fruit danishes were next to be devourced. No one ever touched the raisin rolls. Mind you, it was dark in the dining room. Had we had more light—or come from a culture where it’s acceptable to have chocolate for breakfast—we would have checked to see whether the raisins were, indeed, raisins.
On the last day’s breakfast, I arrived late. My fellow travelers had left me nothing but the so-called raisin rolls. In a snit, I took a bite.
In that bite, my world was suddenly transformed. Those weren’t raisins! That was chocolate poking out the end of the pain au chocolat. Chocolate in my croissant! I could have been eating chocolate for breakfast! CHOCOLATE FOR BREAKFAST!!!
Chocolate for breakfast. How far I’ve come since then, and how overdue I am for a return visit to Paris. I won’t be fooled by raisin decoys. I will be armed with a laundry list of things to eat. And I should probably bring my eating pants. Who wants to join me?