It wasn’t until I had lived in France for a few months that I found out about the secret bags of pastries.
You see, normally, I would have one to three pastries a week. That was all that I could afford reasonably, really. And fresh pastries in France are kind of the bomb dot com. Period. Sometimes, during the morning break in class, my classmates and I would walk to the bakery the next street over, and all have a pastry and coffee together. It was fun and always delicious. And, compared to the US, the prices were fabulous. However, there was still a limit – we couldn’t really do it every day on our college student budgets.
But, my life was somewhat transformed when one of the girls in my program told me how she always got her pastries. D- found a way to try them all on a budget. She said, ‘Yeah, you just look for these bags up on top of the counter, in a basket, and they’re filled with whatever didn’t sell yesterday. So, it’s different every day.’
After several days, if not even a couple weeks, of psyching myself up, I finally went to the bakery she’d mentioned, to find these secret bags. And there they were, crammed full of various pastries, and they were only a few euros. I think it was that very first time that, even though I totally knew what the bag up on top of the pastry case was, I asked casually to the pastry chef what it was. He explained it all to me, and how they didn’t want to waste anything, so they bagged it up and sold it cheap the next morning. I semi-feigned surprise at what he told me, but I was also genuinely surprised that D- had been right and it really was a real thing. For the price of one or two fresh pastries, I could get a whole bag of ones made only yesterday, and of all different types. No, if you grow up on fresh French pastries, they aren’t nearly too delicious. However, we didn’t grow up on fresh French pastries – we delighted in even the day-old pastries like it was some of the best stuff we’d ever eaten. (And it totally was.)
Plus, if someone had given me a bag of pastries anyway, I probably wouldn’t have eaten them all at once. It would have taken me most of the day to get through them comfortably, and I’d probably even save something for breakfast the next day. So, for a huge fraction of the price, we got to do just that.
Usually, I’d share a bag with others, so we all got to try the different pastries. But I got my own a few times, for sure.
So anyway, if you go to France for vacation or whatever, ask the bakeries in the morning if they have bags of yesterday’s leftovers. I think there’s even a specific term for it, but my brain is not producing it right now, if there is one… I totally used it, whatever it was, though, word or phrase or whatever… I loved trying out all the different pastries. However, despite trying so many different pastries, I still almost exclusively get a chocolatine (pain au chocolat everywhere but the southwest), a croissant, and/or a baguette (though those guys aren’t pastries, they are still one of my favorite foods ever). But whatever. I got to test out all the stuff and see that I enjoyed it all, as well as discover that I really just love the simple stuff best. (It’s like a cliché about life or something, but it’s just how I feel about French pastries.)