“In life, there are no Fastpasses.”
Each of us wait in a line almost every day, in anticipation of a service to be performed on our behalf. We wait on the phone for faceless, pseudonym-bearing voices to give us support, or take our money in one form or another. A majority of the time, we’re forced to grin and bear it with the patience of a saint, with the occasional Gary Busey inspired outburst.
That’s why I find it fascinating when people balk at my willingness to wait in line for food. It’s as if it’s reasonable to wait for any number of ultimately unpleasant activities, but only a buffoon would queue up patiently at a world-famous patisserie. The question is, which of those activities hold more worth to you?
When you were a kid, about 10 years old, do you remember getting in line for a roller coaster, say for instance space mountain, and being willing to wait 45, 60, 90, or even 120 minutes for a 45 second ride?! For some reason that’s ok. To most of us, as adults, it’s still ok, not as ok, but we find ourselves waiting often and for long stretches. Like I said earlier, we will wait for much less and much worse. I once spent my whole day off getting my oil changed, and the new oil wasn’t even infused with tartufo bianco!
James and I recently found ourselves on the cusp of a bro trip to the west coast, with a 36 hour blitzkrieg of the greater San Francisco area. The research was minimal, however we’d both had a resource exceedingly more effective than any travel site, guide or chefs feed. Word of mouth from friends and colleagues. The consensus from everyone we spoke to was to shoot over to Tartine Bakery & Cafe for the some of the finest French pastry to be had in the states.
Walking down Guererro St. toward the bakery, on what appeared to me to be a dead quite Sunday morning as far as San Francisco goes, we joined a crowd of about 75 people lining the sidewalk, all with smiles on their faces and an eager yearning in their hearts fueled by the gentle wafting of freshly baked goods. Surprisingly, there are people who love food as much, if not more than me. We’re out there, we love to share, we love to visit one another and we love to wait for things worth waiting for.
There are many reasons for this seemingly odd behavior, many of which reside cozily in the displays lining the front counters glass enclosed case.
First, waiting in line adds to the suspense. In almost every artisan bakery, items rotate so often every trip can offer a whole new experience. One day you might be looking forward to a morning bun, but then you see a blueberry frangipane tartlet with its 1,800 layers, buttery brown crust and tiny California blueberries adorning the crown.
There is a fantastic phenomenon, possibly part of the owners ingenious plan, that often occurs while in the line at a great bakery. As each happy customer exits and passes by, full and happy, they leave behind an aromatic tail, a sort of pastry contrail if you will. This you’ll find more intoxicating than drakkar noir. With every inch you move closer to the door, your anticipation grows, until you find yourself planning an order far larger than you originally planned.
In the bread basket that is San Francisco, Tartine sits as the tallest baguette in the heap. Granted, there is great pastry to be had without the line. However that line you see out the door is the difference between good and great. It marks that moment reminiscent of your first coaster drop, where you feel your stomach float. We wait for that first bite of a double chocolate croissant, we wait because you don’t know if you’ll ever have another chance to savor another slice of passion fruit, lime and coconut bavarian cake. You’ll never forget what happens within these walls, and you’ll want to send all your friends to experience the same feeling. I was the recipient of that extra special moment of remembrance, and I thank my dear friends for sharing.