Writer’s Words: Susan Hochbaum, Author of Pastry Paris: In Paris, Everything Looks Like Dessert

   1044  
Writer’s Words: Susan Hochbaum, Author of Pastry Paris: In Paris, Everything Looks Like Dessert
  Pastry Paris: In Paris, Everything Looks Like Dessert is the offspring of my yearlong mid-life romantic adventure in the most delicious city on earth. Though it looks like a picture book about dessert, the real story is about pleasure, love, beauty and happiness, all wrapped up in butter, sugar and cream. It’s about going from a life of everyday contentedness, to a year of living shamelessly in the unabashed pursuit of pleasure. I never set out to make a book. I never set out to live abroad, to fall in love later in life, or to jettison my home and business and set off on an adventure. And I’m also not a photographer. I’m also an accidental pâtisserie devotée. I don’t bake; and until I wrote the book I didn’t know anything about the history of French pastry. I’d been to Paris before, but I’d never really paid that much attention to dessert, aside from my life-long preoccupation with whipped cream. In thinking about how the story of this book unfolded, I realized that it came about through a series of fortuitous connections. MATCH.COM CONNECTION It was the fall of 2007, I’d been divorced for a few years, and my only son left for college. I was living a happy life in suburban NY—great friends, a satisfying graphic design business, close family, travel . . . but then at some point my elderly dog and I found ourselves just staring at each other, each of us wondering what was next. I decided to try online dating, thinking only of having interesting dinner conversations and movie company. Long story short: about six months and some pleasant-enough dinners into it, I received a funny, charming email from a man in Chicago. To be honest, I wondered why he was fishing around in New York, imagining that he’d worked his way through the local Chicago offerings. A few email exchanges and two weeks later, he flew to NY to take me to dinner. Long story short again: Joel and I fell in love. Fast-forward a few months and serendipity strikes. In quick succession the following events occurred: My landlord doubled the rent on my studio and I could no longer afford it. Sadly, my dog died. The lease on my car ended. My son scheduled his spring semester abroad in Europe. And finally, the deal-clincher: a local real-estate agent called to ask if I’d be interested in renting out my house for a year to a family that was moving to town from Canada and was willing to pay an ungodly sum for it So with our ties to home loosening, we realized we could live anywhere. Joel’s work was portable and, after a great deal of hand wringing, I granted myself a sabbatical. So with no compelling reason to stay and every good reason to go, we packed up our savings and moved to Paris. We arrived the morning of September 18, 2008 and found that the apartment we had rented was located at the corner of rue de l’Espérance (the street of Hope) and rue de la Providence (the street of Luck)— the intersection of Hope and Luck. VISUAL CONNECTIONS IN PARIS I arrived in Paris ravenous . . . in every way. I was determined to live lustfully, with as little guilt and self-recrimination as I could manage (which for me is not that easy). I felt extremely privileged and did not want to waste one sublime second. I had no real plans for how I’d spend my time, since the French government wouldn’t allow me to work while I was there. It was the first time in my life since I was 22 that I wasn’t working as a graphic designer and I had no idea how I would fill a year’s worth of days. Before I left a friend gave me a book called The Pâtisseries of Paris and it seemed like as good a way as any to organize my exploration of the city. So each morning I’d choose a pâtisserie and set out to explore the neighborhood around it. And every day I was stunned by the dazzling beauty of the pastries I’d see in the pâtisserie windows. To me they were as beautiful as the sculptures I was seeing in the museums, real works of art, AND YOU COULD EAT THEM!! So I bought one (or two) every day—I became obsessed. I owned a little pocket camera (one of those foolproof cameras that I only knew how to use on the “automatic” setting) and at first used it just to document the pastry du jour that I’d purchased. In the beginning I simply set them down wherever I happened to be (on a ledge, on a bench, on the sidewalk) and took a snapshot. It was just a record of what I was eating and I’d send the pictures home to friends, as a journal of my time there. Most days I had the will power to bring the pastries home at the end of the day, and after dinner Joel and I shared them (thus halving the calories, and doubling the pleasure). Hunting, shooting, and eating became my routine. I’d be lying if I didn’t mention that the sensuality of love and dessert is a winning combination and I had the appetites of a teenager for both. People have asked me how I…
  • SUBSCRIBE
  • ALREADY SUBSCRIBED?
Previous Article Strategically Shopping Paris Winter Sales
Next Article French Lesson: Saint Nicolas Day in Lorraine, France