There is a church, a bar/newsstand, a souvenir store and an ATM. A bit further up the main road there, is a bakery, a pharmacy, a small movie theater and a post office. All these businesses are very quiet, except maybe the bakery around lunchtime—gotta buy a baguette, or two, or three! Their business hours are somewhat erratic and only locals truly master the art of mailing a letter in a timely manner (the post office opens from Tuesday to Thursday from 9:30 a.m. to 11:15 a.m.), buy Aspirin (the sign on the pharmacy’s main door always claims “back at 4 p.m.!”) and watch a decent movie that isn’t already on DVD. Only the church, presumably, holds a regular Sunday mass… although come to think of it, one priest often manages several town churches so the “Sunday office” could be held on Saturday instead.
This is Saint-Michel-Chef-Chef, a small village like thousands of others in France. Regardless of their population size, some of these towns are just a dot on the map while some are a worthwhile pit stop because they became famous. Évian, for instance, or countless towns where a historical event took place (e.g. Vimy) or where someone famous lived there long enough, like Auvers-sur-Oise with Van Gogh.
Saint-Michel-Chef-Chef is famous for its biscuiterie producing buttery galettes, the original cookie. Now it produces a large range of biscuits sold in supermarkets all over the country and even exported abroad—I can find some of them in Canada.
The thin galette Saint-Michel is always a favourite but you can also buy sablés (buttery cookies made with a crumbly dough), madeleines (spongy palm-size tea cakes), brownies, chocolate-filled crêpes, etc. Common denominators of these yummy treats are butter and sometimes sea salt, and it gives the cookies a pleasant sweet yet lightly salty flavour.
The large and newly revamped “atelier” where you can buy the St Michel brand products plus many related items (metal boxes, bowls, etc.) is always packed. People love cookies, even more so when they are local and cheap. Besides the store, there is a small coffee shop where you can buy a drink and super fancy cakes made with various cookies.
This buttery taste and the retro packaging remind me of my childhood… and boy, do they taste good!