I stood before the bakery, hating myself for what I was about to do. I swore I’d never frequent the place again after seeing the owner, a middle-aged Frenchman, repeatedly berate his employees. Once he dressed down a server for some minor infraction regarding my café au lait. The young man was so humiliated he could hardly look me in the eye when he handed me my drink. The staff changed constantly. Nobody could work for that tyrant for long.
My boycott lasted three months. Then my vow to stand in solidarity with the downtrodden workers gave way to gluttony. For this, I blame the apricot tart. Its golden glazed fruit, its buttery fluted crust (with just the right amount of almond) proved my downfall.
There was no sign of the boss that morning when I sidled up to the pastry counter, and the woman who waited on me betrayed nothing as she delivered my tart in a little box with a cool, professional “Merci, madam.” Yet who was I kidding? As I headed for the door, I could tell the workers were still brow-beaten, still casting furtive glances around for their overbearing taskmaster. The air itself felt oppressive, but also: It smelled of freshly baked baguettes.
all the ripe apricots
are gone off the tree