Bread and Chocolate

There is an edible experience I had as a child that remains unsurpassed. The year was 1963, I was ten. I still think about it and have tried many times to recreate it. I need to ask my brother if he remembers the moment as vividly as I do.

We were at our friends’ farm in the country, just outside of Paris. By day, I ran around chasing wild cats and at night, recited (for a very small audience) “Cinderella,” in French. Given as an assignment by my teacher at home, Monsieur Willmaker, I knew it by heart. Other than “Cinderella,” and announcing “Je m’appele Frederique,” I could not understand or speak a word of the language. I rocked the accent though, and I was extra proud of it, which is why I was the biggest show-off with my nightly act.

Right now, year 2011, travelling by train from Paris to St. Tropez, I realize I am mixing Spanish, English and the little French I know. Let’s call it Franglish. And now, I’m thinking, uh-oh, maybe my Spanglish has always been infused with the few French words I know.

Back to that unforgettable food moment. After a long day of running around the Constantines’ farm, their mom pulled us aside for a quick snack. We were way out in a field when I saw her approaching with a basket of goodies. When I saw that she had fresh baguettes with butter, I perked up. She spread the beurre (butter, mind you, from their own cows) on the bread and then took out a big hunk of chocolate, like a chocolate bar. And that piece of chocolate went on top of the bread. Looking at it, I thought, nah. I just couldn’t get my brain around it. But I was hungry and I was checking out everyone else’s happy faces. So, I took a small first bite. I am not exaggerating when I say that it was the most delicious taste of life.

On this train ride, I have come as close to recreating my childhood experience as I ever have. Which is perfect, since it wasn’t too far from here that I ate that delicious bread and chocolate. Incidentally, my husband thinks that’s the title of all French films. I’ve been on the train now for a few hours and have not seen one person put one piece of food in his mouth. Is this a more civilized country? Is there no eating in this car? Is this why the French are thin? But I’m getting really hungry and I always carry a stash. Not just any stash, I carry the best. In my bag is an assortment of croissants from maybe the best bakery in Paris, Gerard Mulot. I was staying in St. Germain des Pres only blocks away from it. So, before my train ride today, I stocked up.

Just took a few bites of one of the best chocolate croissants ever.

On the train I am sharing a booth for four. In the other three seats are an elderly couple and their middle-aged son. We have been on the train for a few hours with no words spoken between us. They talk to each other in French or read the newspaper or sit in silence. And then they gather themselves at a stop to leave. As they stand, I smile at the older woman; a huge warm smile because I’m unable to communicate (remind me to learn French). And she says something so random back to me – she offers up her son for me to marry. I’m not kidding. I understood what she was saying because I heard the word marriage (please say that with a heavy, show-offy, perfect French accent, maree-auge) as she pointed at her adult son, and then back to me. He looked a bit sheepish, and I spoke quickly, saying a lot of words they will never understand. I said something like, oh, sorry, I am already married but I love to fix people up, and I might have someone for you. Oh, my God, I just kept nervously going on and on. We had only a few seconds to create a history between us that would have been there had I been able to say all that I wanted and was thinking for the last three hours with them. I felt like I was in a scene in a French movie… called “Bread and Chocolate.”


You know, those French movies, they can end quickly without ever wrapping anything up. Of course in the movie version, I might run off the train and spend the rest of my life with that man.

For the best croissant in Los Angeles, you will need to go to Susina Bakery on Beverly Blvd. just before La Brea. Since I am now a person who barely drives across town, I am not there enough. It is the most magical bakery so you should go anyway if you’ve never been. Every single person I have introduced to Susina has made it a regular place to revisit. I bring the croissants home and heat them up for a few seconds so they are extra buttery. On a few days a week, the owner, Jenna Turner’s aunt Jackie reads tarot cards. Also, if you like three berry cake at Sweet Lady Jane, her berry blossom cake is in my opinion superior and we often serve it to happy friends at parties. Now, there is something going on in my hood, that I hope I don’t have to eat my words about. I wrote piece titled “If you build it, they will come”. It was about how there is a plot to keep good restaurants out of the Palisades. As I write this, Alain Giraud is about to open a French restaurant right here, a block from my house. His croissants at Anisette, now closed, were my favorite on the west side of the 405 (guess you have to live in L.A. to understand that reference).

Eddie Constantine and I in Paris, 70's

summer of bread and chocolate

childhood friend Lemmy in Paris today

Helaine Constantine, who fed us bread and chocolate!

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7 Responses to “Bread and Chocolate”

  1. gari smith says:

    this is fabulous!! i am hungry for the bread and chocolate! you describe things so perfectly that i can almost taste them! makes me want to jump on a plane and train to paris! your descriptions are perfection~

  2. I must tell you, I broke my gluten free diet to have a chocolate croissant from Trader Joe’s frozen section just yesterday. You put them out to sit the evening before you want to bake them and they rise and puff up to perfection….then warm out of the oven into my tummy. A few weeks ago I thought I had purchased the chocolate croissants but what I had purchased were plain croissants and I had told my grandsons that we were having chocolate croissants. I had to quickly break open a rich chocolate bar and inserts squares of chocolate bar into the center of the freshly baked croissants so that I wouldn’t have to suffer any disappointed from my three darling boys. I loved you story as usual. I have been checking your blog daily for updated posts…always delighted when I see you have posted a new story!

  3. pauli moss says:

    Great blog Fredde – one of your absolute best – perhaps because your love of croissants and chocolate is so pure and unselfish. Will have to
    try Sussina of course now that you’ve mentioned it and am dying to
    hear how the Alan Giraud restaurant is – you must review it when it
    opens. The train ride you described so beautifully makes me long to
    get on a plane back to Paris …but not till October or November when the
    weather is bearable. Thanks for a lovely experience without the calories!

  4. caryn says:


  5. valentina says:

    Fredde, when I was an 18-yr old au pair girl to a Parisian family, I spent an entire month living in the Cote D’Or (champagne country south of Paris) in an old monastery which had been converted into apartments. Everyone who lived there was related by blood, including the matriarch of my host family. Every afternoon the truck from the nearest town’s boulangerie would drive thru the gates to deliver still-hot-from-the-oven baguettes. And the vendor always carried bars of good, dark chocolate. So, this is where I learned about the sensual taste-bud delight of bread and chocolate. It’s a worthy addiction!

  6. Debbie Schellenberg says:

    OK, I am STARVING….and this is too cute!

  7. celebrity lifestyle…

    […]Bread and Chocolate « Channeling The Food Critic in Me[…]…

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