The nondescript box began to exert it’s magical powers as soon as it left the bakery. A smallish, square, flat carton, decorated with too perfect fruit across the cover. It had been tied shut in standard french bakery efficiency by a very prim young woman. If I looped my finger into the bow just so, in the crook of my finger, the box could swing gently and yet remain horizontal, which was ever so important to the precious contents. Nothing what so ever indicated what might be inside. And yet within minutes people’s curiosity and attraction for the box and it's contents became apparent.
We’d made a tactical error in our morning’s outing. Any self respecting french market goer knows that the bakery is the last stop. We’d made the mistake of being drawn into the bakery and then doing a tour of elegant, city boutiques. This meant that the box was on parade.
The very first store clerk suggested that I leave the box on the counter while I browsed - and then suggested that it might be a good idea to just leave it with her.
She was not the last shopkeeper to make that suggestion.
Then there were the passersby that suggested that maybe the box was too heavy and they could help by taking it off my hands. Or less subtly just blurting out, "oh I’ll take that...."
Couples drinking coffees at cafe tables looked longingly as it passed by and one gentleman brazenly asked that it be dropped off at their table. “Oh that’s for us? How wonderful of you.”
Heading home on a quieter back street each neighborly passerby eyed that simple box. Twice there was an hmmm, once there was “oh you’ve brought something along for our afternoon tea.”
Finally the box was placed on our kitchen table. The tea kettle was set to boil and plates and forks were set out.
The bakery box string was cut and the lid propped open. Voila the hidden treat, a simple elegant apple tart. Hard to believe that something so plain was worth the oohs and ahhs of the afternoon. But let me just tell you this tart was deliciousness itself. Perfect apples, flaky, buttery crust all melting in your mouth.
No wonder anyone recognizing that simple box and the amazing bakery it came from were chasing us all over town.