Sunday, December 13, 2009

Bûches de Noël


It is the season of Advent, and Christmas will soon be upon us. I will refrain from political rants until after the first of the year and reserve my opinions to food.

And why not? Historically, the breaking of bread with others was a means of making peace. The table was a place for conversations – conversations among families, among diplomats and among kings and princes. Food is a primal need, and at the dinner table, we are all equals. We speak reasonably at the dinner table for fear of being banished. We offer sustenance to others there, and we accept it from them too whether they are strangers, friends or family. We are vulnerable at the dinner table too and we must put our guard down in order to partake in this ritual. And it is a ritual – a joyous ritual of feasting, sharing the same Latin root word as "festival".

We are in our season of feasts and festivals, a rare time when we return to the dinner table and bask in the warmth of our loved ones. Some brilliant Teutonic baker in times gone by decided to celebrate the Yule by reproducing a mighty fire-log in the form of a wonderful chocolate confection. Often these Yule Logs are simple, cartoonish affairs, and they are quite lovely and delicious. At the hands of a master, however, the Yule Log is transformed. It is a rare time when a baker with a sense of humor can go a bit wild. I have seen Yule Logs that look like vast fallen branches, moldering in the forest damp, complete with entirely realistic white chocolate and marzipan fungus and worms about. The dusting of cocoa reinforces the realism of the dull, dirty log. These are amazing things.

The French, contrariwise, elevate the Yule Log to something. . . well. . . French. In the United States we often malign the French. Personally, I loathe the current political climate of the nation of France, but I have always loved the Gallic people. And, particularly, I love their ability with food as art. And clothing as art. And women as art.

Recently, whilst looking for ideas for decorating Yule Logs, I found the one pictured above. Designed by men's clothing designer Alexis Mabille and executed by a brilliant Parisian bakery, this Bûche de Noël will put you back about €80 - $118 at today's exchange rate. No, I do not know what it tastes like, but who really cares? It is worth the investment to have something perfect in your life. It is much the same as my argument in favor of owning a Jaeger-Le Coultre watch or a 1929 Bentley – perfection is rare, embrace it.

No, neither this nor a witty reinvention of it will grace my holiday table this year. I see this, and I want to go back to a nice stew. I will leave creations like this to the Bo Fribergs of the world and I, I will eat Oreos.

Joyeux Noël!

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