I fingered the money in my pocket, just a few bills and some coins, but enough to have a couple of Marks left over. I smiled in anticipation. I knew exactly what I would buy with those extra Marks. I headed up my street and turned down a narrow road that led me up a hill towards the town square. My shoes made a satisfying tromping noise on the cobblestones as I wove through the old buildings to the small bakery tucked at the edge of the square. I looked up at the tall houses to see window boxes snuggled in between old shutters, overflowing with bright, red geraniums. Their long tendrils hung lazily over the sides, crowded with bright, green leaves.
Looking ahead, I
could see the open square: an empty gathering place with picnic tables,
always crowded on weekends in the fall when Oktoberfest was in full
swing. Along the edges of the square were all of my favorite stops: the
Gausthaus that served spicy goulash soup and huge cuts of breaded
schnitzel paired with fluffy, handmade spaetzle; the gelato shop shining
with rows of aluminum bins, packed with a rainbow of creamy colors; the
narrow gift shop crowded with stickers, cards, pens, clips and
desirably useless gadgets of all sorts.
And then there was the bakery.
storefront was lined with windows just begging to be leaned upon by
passers-by who fell into a food trance at the sight of golden apple
strudels, stacked chocolate cakes, twisted egg breads, pyramids of sweet
buns, creme-filled pastries, dark loaves of sturdy rye and almond tarts
loaded with homemade jam. Once inside, the counter of glass cases revealed an
endless array of pastries, while shelves on the wall behind were stacked
with fresh loaves of bread - some hearty and crusty to sop up the
juices of a good roast and others delicate and sweet to nibble on with a
cup of strong coffee.
Mom sent me to get a nice loaf
for dinner - something with a good personality that's soft inside with a
crust that will crack and flake when you tear into it. As an added
bonus, she gave me a little extra to get something sweet. Now you may
be thinking that with such an overwhelming variety of options, I might
agonize over which pastry or tart to choose.
You would be wrong.
I coveted one pastry over all others.
I anxiously searched
through the glass cases. And then, I found it. Light, fluffy chocolate
cream slathered thickly between two triangular pastry cookies - piped
choux paste baked to golden perfection. But wait - there's more! Each
corner was then dipped in bittersweet chocolate to create the perfect
pastry: creamy, crunchy, chocolaty heaven. My mouth watered at the
sound of the thin, waxed paper crinkling around the large sandwich
cookie. Fortunately, I remembered my task and selected a fresh, round
loaf with a dark brown crust as well.
I barely stepped out of the bakery before I reached into the
bag. The first bite stopped me in my tracks. I had to stand still to
savor each layer and catch each precious crumb. If I had the willpower
to make it home, a glass of cold milk would be the perfect companion.
But it never happened.
I remember the look, the smell, the taste of that sandwich cookie as
if I devoured one just yesterday, but, in reality, my last trip to the
bakery was in 1989. My father was stationed in Germany, which brought
us to the town of Oppenheim, right along the banks of the Rhine River.
One of many food memories of our three year stay in the country, this
one remains one of the most vivid. I don't know if that bakery is still
there, nestled into the corner of the small town square, but I often
dream of returning to get just one more chocolate cream triangle cookie,
dipped in bittersweet goodness...who am I kidding? I would get at least a dozen to tide me over until my next trip....the next day.