“I’M TAK­ING YOU TO THE TEM­PLE OF BREAD.”

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sa­tion about it and com­pare it.”

He slices the bread along its en­tire length and plunges his nos­trils into the doughy in­sides.

“With cer­tain breads you can talk about ver­bena, black cher­ries, cit­rus, mushroom—but this bread is with­out per­son­al­ity. It’s dull.

“We’re look­ing for an am­ber, creamy colour of crumb. Not white. And we don’t want a hon­ey­comb. We want to see dif­fer­ent sizes of holes. That tells us if the fer­men­ta­tion and knead­ing was done prop­erly.”

Eye­brows raised in con­cen­tra­tion, he munches the crust. “I’m get­ting some caramel, a toasty flavour.”

And then there’s the bread it­self. “The taste is with­out magic,” the pro­fes­sor says. “It doesn’t con­nect with my mem­ory in a Prous­tian way to evoke a baguette I had in St Tropez in 1961 be­fore mak­ing love with Brigitte Bar­dot or any­thing like that.”

Crumbs! I’d never have imag­ined such a steamy sce­nario pop­ping to mind from eat­ing a piece of bread.

But al­though the pro­fes­sor’s eyes are bright with mis­chief, his tone is mat­ter-of-fact. Clearly, Ka­plan be­lieves that the taste of a well-fired baguette can rekin­dle lost mem­o­ries.

He’s been so dis­mis­sive of this par­tic­u­lar sam­ple I don’t dare re­quest a taste. And any­way, he’s now talk­ing on his mo­bile phone, in flu­ent French. Reach­ing for his jacket af­ter the phone call, he tells me: “I’m tak­ing you to the tem­ple of bread.”

We walk to Mont­par­nasse and by Alésia Metro sta­tion we step in­side Do­minique Saibron , a bustling bak­ery swirling with com­fort­ing scents of fresh bread and sticky-sweet pas­tries.

Along one long wall are pine-wood racks, brim­ming with golden-brown ba­tons, flat loaves, round boules and sheaves of up­right, floury baguettes.

“Bread, bread, bread! I love it!” says Pro­fes­sor Ka­plan.

We’re greeted by a dark-haired man in a caramel-coloured apron with his name, Do­minique Saibron, em­broi­dered on it. His shoes are white with flour. Saibron used to be a pas­try chef in gourmet restau­rants, but found the ta­ble bread so poor that he started bak­ing his own.

This bak­ery at­tracts 2000 cus­tomers a day but ev­ery batch is dif­fer­ent, which is why, as Pro­fes­sor Ka­plan bites into a baguette, Saibron looks tense.

“The mouth feel is easy and del­i­cate, ap­pe­tiz­ing and long,” says the pro­fes­sor. “I’m get­ting black cherry, liquorice,

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