Sunday, December 2, 2012

Cream Puff Junkie

I’m fortunate to say that, throughout my life there is very little I’ve addicted myself to. I’ve picked up and put cigarettes down about 4 or 5 times. While living stateside I got hooked on Chipotle’s burrito bowls. For a while, when things were really stressful I enjoyed a mixed drink – only one per day, but I looked forward to it with wanton glee, parsing out the minutes until mixing and enjoying it. That was quite a few years back.  

Fortunately for the addict in me there were several Chipotle restaurants on my way to work, so I could go to one on this day and to another the next. Or, I could have a burrito bowl for lunch one day and dinner the next, thereby avoiding the people who worked the lunch shift. With the mixed drink ‘addiction’ I would usually buy a large bottle of whiskey that would last me about 2 months. Liquor stores being plentiful I could go to different stores each time my supply of hooch got low and thus didn’t need to worry about people thinking I was a teetotaler.

See how I have the addiction mentality going on? I don’t want anyone to espy my satisfying a craving.

And now, there are cream puffs. They have always been my favorite treat but, in consideration of my waistline I would not buy them very often. Until now.

I blame Jackson, a former student of mine. I had no idea he would turn out to be my pusher. One day I met him on The Street. He had just been to a bakery and had a bagful of puffs, from which he offered me one. From then on I was hooked, conclusively and irrevocably. I made him show me which of the 3 bakeries on The Street had those wonderful treats. After he complied I dismissed him, sauntered casually into the store and bought a half ‘Jin’ – about 500 grams worth.

I say ‘casually’. Back then I don’t think anyone intuited I was a junkie. I think they thought I was just a nice customer. A nice, frequent customer. A nice, frequent OBVIOUS customer. Being the only foreigner for miles around makes me stand out a little bit. No masquerading for me; I’d never get away with pretending I was someone else. And there is only one bakery around here that makes and sells cream puffs.   

In China they make cream puffs with real whipped cream, injected into phyllo dough and baked to perfection. Not too sweet and plenty creamy. If eaten properly cream ends up everywhere but, OH!! The heaven of them!!

When I lived in the Concrete Bunker, close to The Street I would make the excursion about once a month. I really felt too bad to enjoy any type of food addiction when I lived there. Since I’ve moved to the back of campus I feel much better but I seldom walk The Street anymore. A few weeks ago I was there again, first time in a long time. I was meeting Zhanni and Dash for a dinner. Dash works in a cellphone store right next to Cream Puff Bakery.

What did she do to deserve such luck?

Instantly I was reminded of how much I love those cream puffs. Because they are filled with real cream they are very perishable, so oftentimes before, when I had occasion to walk The Street they were sold out. Now that the weather is colder and the puffs keep better, they are available into the evening hours. OH, Joy! OH, Rapture!

My stomach is behaving and I’m feeling like my old, healthy, happy self. Oh, Trouble!!

Now that I’m out 4 evenings a week I can satisfy my cream puff craving. It all started so innocently. The taxi driver overshot the street that I normally walk to get through the Over the Wall community, my usual way home. I had him drop me off at the head of The Street. Meandering along, enjoying the sights and…

There you have me, Ladies and Gentlemen: I am ‘casually’ walking into that bakery for the first time in months, after those cream puffs. Of course the clerk remembered me; I am somewhat of a memorable character around here, if you’ll recall. The clerk and I chatted for a little bit. She commented on how much my Chinese has improved since the last time I was in her shop. I made disparaging comments about my language ability, as per custom over here. All the while I was calculating how many cream puffs were in a half-‘Jin’ (8) and how I would divide them out to maximize the pleasure of having them. Trying to keep my eyes from rolling in their sockets or otherwise appearing too eager, I paid my 6Yuan, snagged my ‘fix’ and – hopefully – casually sauntered back out.

It was all I could do to wait till I got home before sticking my hand in the bag, snagging a puff and sucking the cream out of it.

Now, I’m ashamed to say I am well and truly hooked. I must have cream puffs every day. I look at my stash and contrive excuses to go buy more when I start running low. There being only one bakery that sells them I have to keep coming up with excuses to justify my purchase so that nobody will perceive I’m a junkie. Even worse: I’m buying them more frequently because now, only one cream puff at a time no longer satisfies. Two per allowed occasion: for dessert after breakfast and again after dinner.

The last time I bought some was last Wednesday. It is now Friday night. I am down to 4 puffs. Is tomorrow evening too soon to put in another appearance at the store?

I sidle up to the façade and try to appear nonchalant when looking in. Fortunately for me the cream puffs are in the very first display case, so I can spot them easily from the sidewalk. The baker’s assistant is making waffle cookies right there, in front of the store. He gives me a reason to stop. I chat with him a few minutes before appearing to notice the puffs. I then hail the store’s matron, who comes over, beaming. And what would the big foreigner like today?

“She wants a half-Jin of cream puffs” the assistant announces, in none to low a voice. Cheerfully the baker grabs a plastic bag, paws my puffs into it and then heads to the scale to weigh them. Adding insult to injury the assistant shouts: “Just a half-Jin! Should come out to 6Yuan!”

It’s no use trying to hide my need. They’re on to me.    

Mortified, I pay up, swallow my drool, duck my head down and go home, all the while thinking: “Where am I going to get my fix now?”  


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