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Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Just Give Me the Chocolate Thingie

If you wake up one morning with a hankering for some cocoa ensconsed within a flakey, buttery crust, and you decide to satiate this need by going into your local, friendly Panera-- don't try to order a chocolate croissant.

They don't sell them.

Nope. No matter how absurd that sounds, nowhere on their menu will you see the words "Chocolate Croissant." You will see, however, if you look hard enough on the counter where the baked goods reside, mingling with each other, objects that look suspiciously like croissants, dribbling luscious chocolate out of their rears, and their fronts.

Panera calls these "Chocolate Pastries."

Sometimes, on days when I'm fortunate enough to have to visit an ATM to deposit a check, I'll pop into the Panera that's three doors down from the bank to get a cup of coffee. Now, I'm sure most of you will agree that there's very little that goes with a cup of coffee than a chocolate croissant. Imagine the warmth of the coffee melting the chocolate as the sinfully delightful confection slides effortlessly down your gullet. Mmm. Almost pornographic, isn't it?

When I went into Panera a few weeks ago (I get a monthly paycheck-- I know, it's like the fucking CCC, for Christ's sake) and I noticed that Panera refers to chocolate croissants as "chocolate pasteries" I tried to subvert the dominat paradigm by announcing to the apron'd clerk that I would like a medium coffee and "a chocolate croissant." She went to go pull out the coffee cup, emblazoned with a large letter "M" to avoid confusion, when she stopped, evidently confused anyway, apparently by the latter part of my order. She cocked her head and furrowed her brow, the way my dog does when I ask him philosophical questions.

I sighed.

"Sorry-- a chocolate pastry."

She smiled, nodded, and proceeded to grab me one chocolate croissant. At least she used a piece of wax paper.

Americans get upset when foreigners refer to us as dumb. Being undumb, I can appreciate that. Because my father is foreign, I have to listen to him regale us with examples of the dumbness of America and Americans. Frequently. It's basically his favorite topic of conversation, after he exhausts singing the praises of my sister. He wants me to ghost-write a book for him about how dumb America it is. He's already got what will probably amount to volumes of anecdotes and stories to support his beliefs. He's even picked the title-- and it's snappy, too.


Look for it in bookstores about a year-and-a-half after I lose my current job. I'll keep you updated.

Now, I will not even waste space on this blog arguing that lots of Americans aren't dumb. They are. I know that. You know that, even if you're dumb. (Of course, you're reading this blog, so we already know that you're not. You're sexypants.) I do not, however, share the McDonald Coroporation's (yeah, they own Panera. Crazy, right?) belief that Americans are too stupid to a.) read the word "croissant" and b.) pronounce the word "croissant" in a spontaneous, order-taking situation.

Now, we know that McDonalds thinks Americans are stupid and has for decades. I mean, they invented the picture menu, for Christ's sake, not to mention numbers for food. Perhaps you remember ordering a "Number 2" recently and not, thankfully, receiving a piece of stool in a box-like paper container.

Maybe they think Americans of a certain vicissitude cannot handle the word "croissant" because it is French. Well, I think a relatively large percentage of Americans have been saying French words for a long time and nobody's ever died of it yet. We've been saying "art deco" since the 1930s, haven't we? Haven't we done okay with referring to Demi Moore as "that slutty, brunette cougar?" "Brun" from the French word for "brown," "ette" to indicate that she's a small(ish) female.

Every asshole in town says good-bye to you before a trip with "bon voyage" before they go read your mail and break into your home to masturbate on your sofa pillows. And every pervert, scumbag and ESPN announcer knows how to say "menage-a-trois" when it matters most. We all know the skinny prig in the white vest with his nose in the air at a restaurant is called the "maitre-d."

So, why can't we be expected to say the word "croissant" at Panera?

Do they think it's going to negatively affect sales if the simpletons of the American world walk up to a counter, want a delicious chocolatey treat and won't order it because they can't pronounce the word on the menu?

Yes. That is what they think.

And, you know what? They're right.

At a local bagel chain, they offer sumptuous, flakey, square, layered, chocolate-infused, confectioner's sugar dusted delicacies, and they put them right by the cash register, so you just can't resist adding one of those lovely mothers to your order. For months, I longed to try one, but I didn't know how to pronounce their name.


I was petrified of looking like an incompetent, idiotic, yes, American asshole in front of the 19-year-old pony-tailed chippy behind the counter-- like she knew how to pronounce "beignets." Finally, after months and months, I summoned up every ounce of courage and decided, "Okay, that's it-- today's the day. Today I am going to order one." And I sauntered bravely up to the counter, slapped my $1.15 on the counter, cleared my throat, and confidently said,

"I'll have one of, uh, one... one of those chocolate thingies, please."


  1. Oh, bobber, why didn't you tell me? I could have helped you enjoy one of those chocolate thingies much sooner! And you needn't look like a fool in front of any 19-year-old chippy at the bagel shop:

    Beignet: Ben-yay

    Good spelling word, though. A tout a l'heure!

  2. Yeah, so the chortle that came up from deep gut while reading the title of your father's book caused me to express coffee from my nostrils.


  3. I'd call a "chocolate croissant" pain au chocolat, which I guess would really be asking for trouble if people are afraid of the word croissant.

    Perhaps it is also some residual anti-French sentiment, and they should be called "Freedom Pastries" instead.

  4. I get especially snooty about French around dumb Americans, because I've been learning the language since I was in third grade. At fancy restaurants, I order menu items with the appropriate accent and smirk as the server walks away, knowing I've impressed him so.

    Then I went to Paris.
    And I have never felt like a dumber American in my whole life.

    Hey, perspective.

  5. A post near and dear to my heart.

    Growing up in a house where traveling and culture were encouraged (and with parents who were pretty much master pastry chefs), croissants were pronounced and pronounced correctly, dammit.

    Now, if I try to order one by saying its name properly, nobody knows what the heck I'm talking about. I have to dumbe it down and say "ker-sont" like a stupid American, and even THEN half the people don't know what I'm talking about.

    So I end up pointing and nodding and really, isn't that what Apes do?

    Aaah, the things we do for breakfast pastries...

  6. That was a good read. I guess I'm sexypants then. I love chocolate thingies! They're probably afraid of the name cz it's french. Fear of the unfamiliar.

    I have pictures of nice looking ladies at the end of my latest post. Thought you'd be interested :P


  7. As a French expat - I can totally many times did I have the same problem than Paige, and had to 'dumbify' my pronunciation of 'croissant' and the rest...

    The back of the medal is that for the longest time I had to repeat my orders in English, desperately trying to find the right pronunciation in the meantime. Stressing.

  8. I've decided that your father is probably the best comedic character ever created. In most cases I would assume that he would be nowhere near as funny in real life as how you portray him but with this guy, yes, he must be just as funny as you say he is. If he isn't don't tell me, my world will implode.

  9. This might be the funniest blog that has ever existed. Bold statement. I know. But I'm going with it.

    Also, do not feel bad as I have a worse problem: issues prounouncing American words (I am American) - I think between my pothead years and experiences in other languages/with other sounds - something has gone wrong.

  10. this is why one goes to panera for soup and bread, and to a real bakery for decent pastry. ;)

  11. Ah, I long to be back in France again... damn them and their boulangeries... damn them.

    Don't forget 'fillet' for another French word!

    And, classically, Americans actually pronounce it right (i.e. French), while we Brits pronounce it 'fil-it'

  12. Alright, I enjoyed this post right from the start till the end. Is it me or americans & the britishers always had a bit of an edge?

    Good write-up. =)


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