Friday, June 4, 2010

France and their Bread

Though gourmets the world over relish it, no one can get quite as passionate about French bread as the French. For them, the long crusty loaf notoriously known as the baguette is not only a gustatory delight and a dietary necessity but a supercharged political commodity as well. On the dark day in 1789 when a mob of hungry women marched twelve miles through the mud to Versailles to haul King Louis XVI off to his doom, their war cry was “Bread Bread!” and their fury was fed by Marie Antoinette's fateful “Let them eat cake.”

Although I was somewhat aware of this time in history and the idea of the baguette as an enduring symbol of France, I was however, rather unaware to the extent of which this was so. Since I've been here, I've come to the realization that the baguette is not just a symbol of France but infact an icon of French life. There are boulangeries and patisseries everywhere! We live in a tiny little medieval town and there must be at least 10 different independant bakeries here, not to mention the grocery stores. In bigger towns and cities I've noticed that you cannot walk a block without running into a boulangerie, its absolutely incredible. I see people walking out of these places with their arms full of nothing but baguettes. About a week or so ago I was sunbathing at the beach and was surprised to see a woman with her two little girls just eating a baguette as a snack.

I will say however, that the baguettes here are absolutely delicious. One thing I have noticed is that whole wheat bread doesn't seem to exist here. Why is this the case? Another important note of mention which I have come to discover is that baguettes are made to be eaten the same day as purchased. I have tried wrapping a leftover baguette in a tea towel; I have put it in a plastic bag overnight; I've sprinkled it with water and baked it in a hot oven, but the result is always the same – day-old French bread tastes like carpet slippers. You have been warned.