The art of making bread bakes up to numbers: of cups, teaspoons, tablespoons and degrees, if what you’re making is daily bread. A baguette, c’est une autre paire de manches. It requires numbers plus an ineffable amount of magic. What you get, after all, is an edible wand.
Luc Justin loves baguettes. From that first hint of salt dropped on top of a floury pyramid, to the last rrring of the oven confirming what his nose already suspected…he lives and breathes to make ingredients come to life. In return, his baguettes make him one of the two best bakers Paris has ever seen; the other being Pascal Moufftard – his nemesis. They’ve been the finalists of the last five Baguette d’Or Awards and every time they tied for first place.
“Luc’s baguettes are by far tastier,” half of the judges would agree.
“But Pascal always comes up with a unique concept for his,” would respond the other half.
Thirty two days into the new year and the day of the confrontation arrived.
The morning started unusually sunny for that first day of February. The cobblestones on Place de la Contrescarpe were shining like marble beads. Luc Justin left his bâtiment at six minutes past ten, as planned, on his way to Rue Chanoinesse home to Boulangerie de Paris, the bakery hosting the awards. He had twenty-four minutes to get there, a walk he knew so well he could have taken it with his eyes closed.
Not today. He was nervous. He needed a God-given idea to win. One he was still waiting and hoping for.
Little did he know his baking life was about to change forever.
The sunlight was testing the limits of his photophobia. He had to stop and buy a pair of sunglasses even if that meant he would then have to hurry. He cut across Rue Monge when a pigeon that had been following him since he left home, was finally presented with the opportunity of a clear shot. A white, liquid, chalk-like substance spread all over Luc’s shiny-new right lens. Sign of good luck, he thought and kept on walking.
Submerged in his thoughts, right eye covered, he stumbled over a young American boy whose mother was making him hold a balloon like the gamin of a famous black and white postcard. The boy fell, the red bubble fled. Luc had to chase it all the way to Notre-Dame accompanied by the distant echoes of the mother’s whining and internationally acclaimed curses. When he finally grabbed a hold of it, he saw the time on his watch: twenty five past ten. He was almost late.
Luc Justin took a deep breath and decided to let go of the thread. He watched it, for a moment, with his left eye, as it flew inconspicuously – though bright red – towards the cathedral’s Southern Tower. A wise all-seeing gargoyle, head resting on its palms, was watching Luc watching the balloon. Their eyes met. He had seen the statue so many times, but only now opposed to that fleeting red bubble did he feel the poor creature’s drama: stuck in the same place for over six hundred years, unable to move, unable to taste, unable to use his hands…
That’s when it hit him: I shall make the mini-baguette. No more bites. One small baguette to fit your mouth, for you to eat all at once. My very first Baguette D’Or. I will call it: Baguette Boy.
Writer: Irina Nedelcu
Illustrator: Via Fang