Now that we’ve all got the same song stuck in our heads . . . let’s bake baguettes! It’s both easier and harder than you’d think, and takes a long time, but we’re French now, so time is just a construct that soothes our feeble minds as we stumble around our existential prison until we fall into the inevitable abyss of death.
This virtual baguette class took place over two days and was cumulatively eight hours long. Still, I figured baguettes would be easy—I’ve done so many of these classes that one might even say I’ve been on a roll.
I set up my computer in the kitchen with a few minutes to spare, put on my apron over my pajamas, greeted the instructor after she recognized me (I’m a regular! I’M COOL!) and then realized that one of my virtual baguette classmates was my middle school gym teacher.
This might come as a shock, but I did not like gym class in middle school. I have an anxiety disorder and am very awkward and gay. Gym class did not make me feel better about any of those things. I tried very hard but I could never run fast enough to satisfy any gym teacher. I also could not throw, walk backwards or correctly spike a volleyball.
And now I’m going to (virtually) spend the next eight hours with my gym teacher, who was also the health teacher and taught me about genital warts? I’m wearing PAJAMAS!
I’m sure my former gym teacher is very nice once you’re not twelve years old and incapable of coordinating any combination of your own limbs. Even so, I felt like I’d broken some kind of unspoken law by seeing her kitchen over Zoom and I turned my video off in case she recognized me and then yelled at me to catch something that I would inevitably fail to catch.
I have not been in her gym class for over twenty years. But my anxiety is at the point that I find myself explaining “I’ve been having a lot of anxiety dreams lately” to the various celebrities who randomly cameo in my anxiety dreams. They’re usually very understanding but not super helpful.
Baguettes are so much work, I can see why Jean Valjean went to jail for stealing one. There’s proofing, there’s pre-shaping, there’s FINAL shaping, which is TEN distinct steps, there’s scoring, and then you have to pour water in the oven to get them to steam properly!
My gym teacher asked a question about the final shaping process and I had a flashback to sixth grade health class when she explained how anal sex can lead to bloodborne diseases in what was actually a very sensitive and thoughtful way for the ’90s, but I was eleven and wearing a Winnie-the-Pooh sweatshirt and needed to go to the bathroom but was too scared to raise my hand and just when I got up the courage to do it, she assumed I had a question about anal sex but I really just wanted to go to the bathroom.
Anyway, my baguettes turned out pretty well for a first attempt, and they tasted like a French summer day full of wine, cheese, and philosophical discussions about how we must savor the simple pleasures as we hurtle towards death.
A said, “I’d put these in my bike basket any day! Wouldn’t that be great if we could go to France and ride our bikes around the Eiffel Tower?! WHEN CAN WE TRAVEL?!”
The last time A went to Europe, she lost her favorite beanie in the bathroom at Mont Saint Michel. Whenever she gets sad about it (because it was her favorite beanie!), I remind her that this beanie is living its best life in France, la belle vie, and it’s learned how to make goat cheese and real macaron and by now it’s gone back to school at the Sorbonne, where it got a degree in philosophy and it spends its days sitting outside at cafes smoking and arguing that God is dead with passersby, and it’s fathered nine illegitimate children who are all tiny beanies who also smoke and debate philosophy, and the beanie dreams of retiring to Burgundy and starting its own vineyard so there’s something to leave to the children, and someday when everything is back to normal, A and I will get back to France, and we’ll see an expensive casque of wine with a little beanie on the side and turn to each other and GASP, “The beanie!”