One cannot talk about France without talking about bread. It is an important part of French identity, and French culture. It is easily accessible (in country) and immediately enjoyable. When I travelled to Japan, I was enraptured by Onsen and public bath houses. In France, I am captivated by bread culture. In both cases, I have spent considerable time reflecting on what makes these things so popular in their country of origin, but relatively unappreciated in my home country.
I was 14 years old and touring the country of France with my grandmother when I first decided that my retirement plan would be to work in a bakery in France. Since I am not yet of retirement age, I do plan on living in the US for a while, and currently have no stellar occupational prospects, I have come up with varied approaches to assimilating this cultural experiences to the mainstream American population. If anyone wants to finance these projects, just let me know…
It is nearly impossible to describe what makes French bread so good. It is not fluffier, but more structured and moist, the crust is not crisp, but chewy and solid. I think it is also different because of the way it is treated. Bread is eaten at nearly every meal, and only occasionally as a part of a sandwich. It is thickly sliced, or torn as a chunk, and a substantial amount of delicately sweet salted butter is placed atop. With jam, it is breakfast. By itself, it is a snack. In combination with other foods, it is a main player in the meal. You don’t need a lot of it to be happy, it just needs to be there. It is not viewed as a carrier or enabler of other food products, but respected in its own right.
So, because of this, French people go to the bakery to get fresh bread every single day, and sometimes multiple times a day. There is one in every town, and often several within walking distance of each other in cities. There is a government requirement in France that a baguette may have only four ingredients (flour, salt, water, and yeast) and must be sold for One Euro or less. Bakeries compete for business by doing their best version of those four ingredients.
Everyone has a favorite bakery, and often people are very loyal to that particular store. Don’t be misled that only baguette is sold. While long and thin does seem to be the most popular shape, there are many options, and our favorite is actually dark and round; it is called, “festillue.” In fact, the word, “boulangerie,” (bakery) actually refers to the “boule” or ball shape of bread that was common when the term first originated.
People in the US are just too spread out, and too into fast and easy to drive to the store, get out of their car, and wait in line for their daily loaf of bread. So, what we need to do is get a location that is in a highly populated area, and install a drive-up window. There would be a sign with the bread sold, and prices, but no speaker, you would have to drive up, and have a transaction with the live human person at the window. Very few other items would be sold, including a few essential pastries, European butter, honey and jam, Coffee (whole) (Possibly Espresso in disposable clay cups, and potentially a few sandwiches) a good bread knife, Chris’s pottery, and a rotation of five bulk candies in big glass jars. We would sell reusable bags and baguette sleeves, and charge a small fee for plastic bags. All items besides bread would have to be purchased inside, which would be displayed in the French style. The store would be closed for every major and minor holiday, and workers would be encouraged to strike.
We would draw people in with the baguette, which would cost one dollar (including tax). All bread items would be priced (including tax) to be easily transacted with dollar bills and quarters. The baguette would be made with only four ingredients, with the request that it be eaten by the end of the day. Employees would be required to learn French to retain employment.
The name of the store would be, “Boulangerie Patisserie.” Please no one suggest “Boolin’ Jerry and Patty Sary” Silver Plate and Mercy Buckets.