When I was 17, I went on exchange to Saint-Étienne in France. I quickly fell in love with the food and particularly the sweets. There was one particular treat that particularly stood out- bugnes.
Fresh from the bakery in a brown paper bag, these little morsels tasted like nothing I had tasted. They were a regional speciality and a Mardi Gras treat. Sitting around a crowded table in the smoky café across the road from our lyceé, we’d share around the delicious fried pastries. They were still warm and dusted in icing sugar. I would usually have a hot chocolate topped with chantilly cream at the same time. I was in heaven.
When the Mardi Gras period was over, I was sad to find out the bugnes supply had dried up. For years I despaired of tasting these delights again until the next time I ended up in France, whenever that may be. But last year an amazing thing happened. My sister gave me a French cookbook for my birthday. Lo and behold, there was a recipe for bugnes.
Happily, the recipe did not disappoint. The taste of them instantly took me back to that smoky café .
I’m 17 years old and worrying that my leopard print socks make me look silly to one particular cute boy, despite him touching me on the ankle with the lightest fingers and saying, “Tes chaussettes sont mignon”. I’m still picking up the nuances of the language and feeling ever so shy, but the taste of bugnes makes it all ok. It’s freezing outside but it’s warm in the café, where we spent our time hanging out, talking, drinking hot beverages and playing bébé foot (foosball).
When I finally got the chance to make bugnes myself, it felt a little bit like recapturing that long-lost time of cultural exploration and coming of age. I love that I got the chance to sample a regional treat not known to every traveller and I love that I can recreate those beloved food memories at home. Vive la France, vive les souvenirs et vive les bugnes.