28 Oct 2009

Time to Take Time! (Part 1)

As an introduction to this post, I would be tempted to quote the first sentence of my user profile: ‘In this fast-paced, deadline-chasing modern world, it is far too easy to lose touch with the little pleasures of life...’ Unfortunately everything the modern world has to offer seems to lean towards the fickleness of speed: fast fashion, fast food, fast cars, fast results, life in the fast lane, the fast and the furious… For the appreciation of life’s little pleasures cannot be achieved at speed, and the latter may only generate frustration at some level.

The little pleasures of life are epitomised by a slower approach, in tune with the seasons, the environment, the emotions. As seen earlier on (in The Reckoning), one of the little pleasures of life may be to appreciate fruit and veg that are in season, for example the oh-so-brief British asparagus season that is worth the wait! The beauty of seasonal produce is that they reward you for your wait with their quality and taste at their very best.

Right time also goes hand in hand with right place. In France, the gourmet hastes not. Part of their pleasure in purchasing pastries from the pâtisserie lies in their selection, a sweet dilemma for the indecisive faced with so many temptations. Shall we plump for 2 chocolate religieuses, 1 millefeuille and 1 gland, or how about 1 tartelette paysanne, 1 pêche melba, 1 coffee éclair and 1 meringue? Or maybe just 2 barquettes aux marrons, 1 tête de nègre and 1 opéra?

The taste experience is enhanced by the prelude of the pâtisserie ‘ceremony’, as once the selection has been finalised, the anticipation of cake-eating is prolonged further while we watch the shop assistant skilfully arranging the pastries in a box, or on a cardboard tray with branded pâtisserie paper folded over in a precise - almost origami-like – style, and tied together with a ribbon. If you indicate that the pastries are actually a present, then wrapping paper sublimates the experience. Adding mystery and drama to the contents through packaging is a time-consuming art that is lost on the Starbucks or Prêt-à-Mangers of the fast world.

On departing from the pâtisserie you then travel all the way back home with your unopened package, prolonging the anticipation further with patience and self-discipline. No, you just don’t rip those wrappings in the street and scoff your pastries like some would a burger or croissant! You have to respect your gâteaux!

This is just one of life’s little pleasures: it is not just about treating yourself, but taking time to savour the treat, having your cake and (a little later) eating it! This time-consumed little pleasure is in direct opposition to the next section of this essay: the snatched office lunch. (to be continued)

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