One of the things I do with the waning days of summer is indulge in my silly obsessions.
The latest has to do with my quixotic attempts to obtain a few loaves of a particular kind of French bread I love. It's called Harry's brioche tranchée, which is basically sliced, toaster-ready brioche. I need to be clear - this is not a fine bread product. It's no Poilane, not by a longshot. Frankly, it's scarcely a notch above Wonder Bread but I have a sentimental attachment to the stuff. Whenever I go to Paris, or friends go, or Parisian friends visit, several loaves of Harry make the transatlantic crossing. Of course, they always emerge squished and misshapen from my suitcase but that only seems to add to the charm. There's nothing quite lilke a pot of French press coffee and a slice of Harry's with raspberry jam.
I'm usually good about rationing it out so that I'm not too far from a trip when the last of it goes. But it's gone and the next trip is probably at Christmas. So - as I have before - I hopped on the internet to see if there was any way I could buy some of the stuff online and have it shipped. I found a few French grocery sites where it was for sale but not for international shipment. In the end, I found an email address for the corporate HQ and sent off a polite note, expressing a willingness to pay any overseas shipping and handling charges the order might incur. And I waited, hopefully.
Foolish, foolish boy. After all, this is France.
The response came yesterday from a Customer Service representative who shall remain nameless. The entire reply read:
"I am sorry. It is impossible."
Now, anyone who has spent any time around the French can imagine the inflection there - "C'est impossible!" As though I was asking that the Eiffel Tower be picked up and moved three feet to the left. Now, tell the gang at Poilane that "it is impossible" to ship a loaf of bread across the ocean - something they're very happy to do (via Fedex, no less) if you're willing to fork over forty bucks. Which I am, and have been.
Now, anyone who knows me knows that I'm scarcely a flag-waving jingoist, and in fact I'm quite the Francophile. But do you honestly think that if that folks at Wonder Bread somehow determined there was a buying audience in France, that an international e-commerce website wouldn't have gone up yesterday? By all means, mes cheres amis, complain about the influx of American culture. And lament the day that France's cultural influence declined. But just remember - ce n'est pas impossible; vous êtes paresseux.
I bet you Sarkozy could get me some Harrys ...