Becoming the croissant: a phenomenological experiment 🥐

or the ethics of the (c)croissant studio

This introduction seeks to explore a shift in one's approach to the subject matter, reframing it as a posture. The intention is to delve deeper into this relational perspective through the employment of a contemplative exercise grounded in phenomenology, applied to the subject of ‘breakfast’. Rather than the conventional ‘having breakfast’ we propose the concept of  ‘becoming breakfast’. Central to this exploration is the croissant, a quintessential character, and a particularly telling example. We’ll try to ‘embody’ the croissant, a French puff pastry, and attempt a French pronunciation krwah-sahn as opposed to the English kruh-sahnt.

Our journey commences by tracing the historical background of the croissant, leading us back to the beginning of civilization in the Fertile Crescent. The Fertile Crescent is a croissant-minus-two-bites-shaped region of West Asia, a lively region since the Neolithic and home to some of the earliest human settlements. It is regarded as one of the “Cradles of Civilization” and we think of this area as the birthplace of a number of technological innovations including writing, the wheel, agriculture, and the use of irrigation. The region encompasses ancient Mesopotamia and Babylonia; spanning modern day territories such as Iraq, Egypt, Palestine, Syria and Turkey.

Then, how did the croissant turn into a pastry? Urban myth has it that a group of Vienna bakers invented the prototype for the croissant in 1683, during an Ottoman siege on the Austrian capital Vienna, when Ottoman troops dug a tunnel to enter the then-walled city from underground. Now there are two sides to the story... One says that the invaders were caught and reported to the authorities by one of the city’s bakers, who typically worked very early in the morning and thus heard the approaching attack in his cellar. As a result the Viennese military managed to collapse the tunnel on the Ottoman troops, saving the city from the invasion. The baker baked a crescent shaped pastry in the shape of the Ottomans flag’s symbol, the crescent moon, so that when his fellow Austrians bit into the croissant, they would be symbolically eating their enemy.


This story suggests a sort of anthropophagical position of the origin of the croissant: as a pastry that represents the enemy. To eat your enemy, is to confront oneself inside oneself with the other. The croissant in this case is not symbolic of the other’s substance, but of the other’s position.

The other story, alternatively, says that the Ottoman empire finished their tunnel and reached the city, upon which the Viennese population escaped. The bakers ran from their bakeries and left their bread unfinished. The Ottoman soldiers then formed the fresh dough into little tunnel shapes, to celebrate their winning strategy.

A closer examination of this story reveals that croissants, with their distinctive shape, are perfect structures to go ‘across’, for their shape not only relates to tunnel infrastructures but also to bridges. Croissants or Cross-ants help us to go a-cross

To illustrate, we’ll have a petit petit dejeuner with Charles Baudelaire, who wrote the poem À une Passante. The poem describes a beautiful woman, passing by, in the crowds of Paris. The poet, Baudelaire, is the flaneur, a bohemian, an observer-of-the-crowd-in-the-crowd, seeking refuge. The city he portrays, and the city of the passante, is phantasmagoric: a constantly shifting succession of things seen or imagined, a scene that constantly changes, a sequence of symbols, illusions, goods, contradictions. Halfway between waking and sleeping. He loses himself at the mercy of the commodity. Wandering. The woman in the poem is just a passante... in the same way as she appears, she quickly vanishes from sight, leaving the poet paralysed in the chaos. Not only the woman is a passante, the poet is a passante himself too. We are all passante to each other, in the crowd.

From croissant to passante to Glissant to errant

In this context, the philosophy of  Édouard Glissant becomes instrumental in subverting the ‘passante’ into the figure of the ‘errant’. Glissant theorises the figure of the errant when he states that relation is the ground for identity. Errantry is a state of being-in-the-world in which identity is shaped through a relationship with the other. The errant strives to know the totality of the world, yet, already knows he will never accomplish this. Multilingualism is a characteristic of the errant, devoid of a fixed root.

Building on this exploration of the errant, it's notable that the Croissant also extends its capacity beyond mere physical borders. The Croissant effortlessly traverses tangible boundaries like water (via bridges) and walls (through tunnels). Furthermore, the Croissant delves into the realm of non-physical borders or territories, aligning with the concepts of deterritorialization proposed by Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari. This dual capability of navigating both physical and non-physical landscapes underscores the Croissant's versatility as a symbol of transcending limits.

Furthermore, the Croissant is not only able to cross physical borders such as water (by bridges) and walls (through tunnels) but additionally the Croissant is able to cross non-physical borders or non-physical territories such as the ones theorised by Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari in their concept of deterritorialization.

In the concept of deterritorialization, the croissant embodies the abandonment of territorial limits and borders, symbolizing a dissolution that paves the way for re-territorialization. Deterritorialization, understood as the relinquishment of the territory, where territory represents the space of relations, signifies the disappearance of limits and borders. Each crisis serves as a catalyst for the annulment of limits, rhythms, and cycles, subsequently giving rise to new relations that become re-territorialized or re-ordered. Croissants play a unique role in this process, as they disintegrate into flakes and crumbs, yet simultaneously facilitating reterritorialization within the body. This dual nature of croissants mirrors the dynamic interplay between deterritorialization and re-territorialization.

In conclusion, we observe a shift from the passant/flaneur to the croissant/errant. The former is passive, caught in the infinite loop of the ‘Wiki click’, scrolling infinitely in the dimension of the opinions, drugged by the shocks of the city, sucked into the ‘latte-art-maelstrom’. The croissant on the other hand, becomes an activist, acutely aware of the tight system of interdependence that holds the world and of boomerang-effect that it itself represents.

The archetype persona of the croissant aligns with the medieval jester, a multifaceted figure proficient in jokes, games, dance, music, and acting. Resonating with the errant, the jester roams from village to village without roots, akin to the croissant's nomadic nature. Both the jester and the errant, like the croissant, embrace multilingualism, with the jester employing grammelot—a form of gibberish—in the Commedia dell’Arte. This language is not based on the articulation of words, but reproduces some properties of the phonetic system of a specific language such as intonation, rhythm, cadences, and reassembles them in a continuous flow. Moreover jesters have the ability to accompany one's words with movements, which is something Croissants have too. Parallel to the sound, the jester carries out gestures, made up of widely recognizable expressions. For example, when grammelot refers to French, mimicry is marked by traditional “french” gestures such as those of French flaneurs like Baudelaire. The jester and his/her grammelot therefore perfectly fits with the theory of our Croissant - a french sounding word which takes its meaning from the english to cross.

Now, to fully enact what is means to be croissant we would like to finish this discourse with the reading of a piece of grammelot out loud (in Italo-grammelot which is a language we use often). Please join us:

Oggi traneguale per indotto-ne consebase al tresico imparte per altro non sparetico gorgio, pur se-ministri e cognando, insto allegò sigrede, non manifolo di sesto, dissesto si può intervento e lo stava intemario anche nale perdipiù albato – senza stipuò lagno en sogno-la-prima di il suo masso nato per illuco saltrusio ma non sempre. Si sa, albatro spertico, rimo sa medesimo non vechianante e, anche, sortomane del pontefilo in diverica lonibata visito croissante, grazie!

Text by ccroissant studio

Originally presented during BreakfastB reading series