Paris Breasts, on My Bike
Isn’t it odd how you associate certain sights or smells of youth with events or times in your life that trigger memories? The smell of bleach always brings me back to my grade school cafeteria, and Sister Vincent/Teresa. Diesel fumes to my father’s work truck, idling beside our house on winter mornings before school. Certain spring flower blooms take me back to Boy Scout campouts in the Catskill Mountains in the springtime of my youth. This associative phenomenon occurred to me last week as I prepared to sponsor a dinner at my HOG chapter’s monthly meeting. Once in a while I’ll buy dinner as a gesture of the member’s patronage of my biker lawyer business. Andretti’s restaurant, where we meet, is sufficient enough, although I usually bring some Italian pastries and cheesecakes to spice up the dessert course. I was relegated to the truck with 100 people to carry dessert for, no bike on that night. Before the meeting I stopped at Alpine Bakery in my neighborhood to look through the choices filling the pastry racks. I spied some large pastries that struck me as familiar. I peered hard and realized I had not seen such pastries in many years. Bulbous filo dough puffs filled with custard and fresh fruit, topped with confectionary sugar, about the size of softballs. At first glance I had an immediate rush of biker memory, ushering me back in time some 35 years. I had not seen this kind of pastry since 1982. That was the gloriously adventurous summer before life got serious. I took a motorcycle trip through Europe on a borrowed 1976 Ducati GT 750. A very cool bike now, but a plain Jane Italian back then. My good friend Uwe sourced me a bike from a friend in his hometown of Pfungstadt, Germany and we piloted them around Europe for a few weeks, back when 18 year olds could do such a thing before hunkering down for “University”. The plan was Oktoberfest in Munich in the south of his native country, then off to wherever…
The ignorance of youth allowed us to haphazardly plan a weekend trip to Paris on the bikes. Just for fun. No money, no accommodations, no plans, no brains, no problem. Uwe rode an old BMW ‘toaster’ bike, an R-75 if I recall. We motored along that famous autobahn at what seemed like light speed. I had never ridden so fast for so long in my life. My shock wore off a little once I realized we were in fact not going 180 MILES PER HOUR, but 180 KILOMETERS an hour! More like the 1-ton mark. The limit on our middle sized bikes. Not light speed, but fast for a poor kid from Queens. 100 mph puts you half way to Paris in four hours from southern Germany. We amended our plans at a gas stop to sightsee in southeastern France. A side trip, from our side trip. We pulled the bikes into Strasbourg in the Alsace region just north of the Swiss border, half a day east of Paris, ostensibly so I could see the famous Cathedral of our lady of Stasbourg. I fixed some electrical issues I do remember, flickering headlight, sputtering engine, it was a short that some tape handled. I recall a few other things of that day. I remember how tall the Cathedral was, one of the tallest in the world. I remember how old the city seemed, French with German influence so close is their border. I distinctly remember we shut the bikes down on a classic cobblestone street early in the day, right in front of a little wine and cheese shop. Perfect! I sauntered in like a bold American teenager and recall the plethora of pastries laid about. I inhaled the smells, helmet in hand and quickly realized my ignorance of the language. I pointed to large custard filled crème puffs and asked what they were. The shopkeeper saw me point and knowing I was American, carefully said “Gros Seins”. I repeated her words, as did she several times with a devilish smile. She was a beautiful woman but I recall as her much older than us. She was probably 25! I would never forget those 2 words. “Gros Seins”. We ate them with a thick black espresso from tiny cups at a bistro set next to the bikes. The girl baker sat with us and conversed with Uwe half in German, half in French. I stared. I had never felt so gastronomically satiated. I couldn’t get enough of these French pastries. I ate them from border to border, all over France. They were my staple by day, dry pork sausage by night. The kind that hangs over the bartender’s head by strings in tiny local pubs all about the countryside. Only the metabolism of a teenage boy can withstand such abuse. Everywhere we went. “Deux (2) Gros Seins, S’il vous plait”, I would say. Shopkeepers and bakers would smile and nod, serve two up, take my Franks (no Euros yet). Uwe and I would eat the pastries and kick our bikes to life rumbling into the countryside hopped up on sugar and caffeine. I never really knew what the little phrase meant. I strung it together with the girl baker’s lesson and my paperback travel guide. “Deux Gos Seins, S’il vous plait”, over and over. Some shop keepers amused, some not. It was not until 10 years later that my friend Ewe let me in on a secret he had kept. He told me the girl baker had given me the ‘slang’ name of the French pastry, really called a “Paris Breast”, which is what brought me to this story. Alpine Bakery and HOG chapter dinner. He divulged that all those times I was asking if I could have “2 BIG TITS PLEASE” — in French, to the amusement of some bakers and the dismay of others. Either way, I bought a box last week. “Paris Breasts”, (?) “Big Tits”, (?) for my HOG Chapter friends. What biker doesn’t like a nice fall evening ride to dinner? What biker doesn’t like the camaraderie of a meal out with biker friends? What biker doesn’t like cheesecake, sugar cookies and Paris Breasts? Needless to say, what biker doesn’t like “Gros Seins, S’il vous plait”!! Goes without saying.
Remember, ride hard, ride safe, and in the end make sure you ride home. –Irish
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