Travel

June 16

George W. Bush

Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays. Those are the days of the Boulevard Raspail market, on the Left Bank just south of the Bon Marché. I go at least twice a week, not only because the market is colorful but also because fruit and vegetables there are much cheaper than at my outlandishly expensive neighborhood greengrocer. In fact, it's turned me into a cook, which would astonish all my old friends for whom I never made dinner. I make Italian food mostly, not French. Parisian restaurants are already pretty good at that.

On Sundays I always see Michael Healy holding court at his booth in the market, selling irregularly shaped, homemade English muffins and brownies, which a lot of French people who hate George Bush seem to like as much as fondant au chocolat. Healy talks to everybody, shakes hands with his customers, kisses their kids and speaks French with an accent that reveals he's from New Jersey. He has a boyish air, though he just turned 50, and shoulder-length blond hair that makes him look as though he ended up in Paris after taking a wrong turn on the way to Woodstock.

He was a college dropout in the '70s and made his first million by the age of 30, mostly in real estate, but also as the inventor of the Mini Maglite flashlight. Then he lost it all when the stock market crashed and came to Europe.

The rest is English muffin history, which he studied once he realized that there was a market in France for the griddle-cooked breakfast cakes beloved by Americans (but not so much by Brits, he found). Healy got his grandmother's English muffin recipe and a little place in the 5th arrondissement where he established a bakery. But the stolid French powers-that-be made it impossible for him to market his muffins in grocery stores. So he went to the open-air market on the Boulevard Raspail, where he has become a fixture.

Between Sunday stints at the market, he lives in a stone farmhouse in the Loire Valley. But his real passion is the 131-foot sailboat he's building at a shipyard he founded in the Normandy village of Montfort.

He says he's discovered the joy of living day by day, without debt or a big bank account. But, if you ask me, the French government should make him minister of the economy, because he'd turn flagging French industry into golden English muffins.

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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