Introduction

Introduction

By
Fanny Zanotti
Contains
0 recipes
Published by
Hardie Grant Books
ISBN
9781742704715
Photographer
Helen Cathcart

I don’t know for sure when it all started. Perhaps on that early morning of an endless Paris summer, where stars felt like projectors on my dreams.

I pushed the door to the empty pâtisserie and walked down the stairs of what would become a home of some kind. A home where aprons are tightly knotted and tea towels never far from your fingers. A home where ‘chaud!’ (hot!) is the only spoken word and pastries get made all day. All night too.

Yes, from that very first step, I knew I’d never look back. This is where I belonged. And like a never-ending story, this is where I stayed. One pâtisserie after the other. One restaurant at a time, it would grow on me; it would make me grow up. As a girl, as a chef.

And yet, just like there is a hidden world behind puddles after a summer storm, there is also one behind the stainless-steel counters that we clean restlessly.

It’s a world where the little stories matter. The big ones too, in fact. That kiss you can’t wait to tell your best-friend about. That beach you can never – oh no, ever – forget. That road-trip you took with the fog as the only horizon.

It’s about imperfections. And glitter on my nails.

It’s about falling in love; and baking at two in the morning, or in the afternoon. Breaking up, and crying. Chocolate cake will happen. And flour in our hair too.

Because that’s what we do.

I grew up in France and no matter how clichéd this might be, I learnt how to bake with my grand-mère, her mother mémé and my mother. We would talk about what we were going to make over a breakfast made of baguette slices toasted until just so, butter from the neighbour and strawberry jam that my grandfather used to can every year around that time when bushes are more berries than leaves.

We rode our bicycles to the city centre, along a road – more of a path, really – where trees were paper-cut into the sky, clouds in the shape of waves and waves in the shape of clouds. With a basketful of fruits, we headed back home, where all the flour, sugar and eggs in the world would be waiting for us in the larder.

This was the one door in the kitchen that meant the most to me. I could spend mornings in there, looking at all the products, neatly aligned on shelves. There were pots and pans, cake tins too. And more canning jars than I could count.

I remember the tea towels. Mostly red and blue. White of course too, but only to dry the dishes. And I might have never admitted this to my grand-mère, but every year, as I packed my suitcase en route for the city, I would sneak one or two of them. It goes without saying that I still have them, twenty – or so – years later. Still as worn out, but nothing could ever match what they represent. Much more than just cloths, they’re a reflection of my dreams.

But I digress. And really, that’s sort of ok. Because, when we were in that kitchen, we sure digressed.

And somehow, without us even noticing, we forgot the difference between baking and life.

Ever since, I’ve chosen to keep on forgetting.

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