Bread

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…
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.

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12 responses to “Bread

    • also what I mean by that is it is called “baguette tradition” as in traditional style of baguette from the baker – usually more crunchy and better flavor and a bit more expensive.

      • Jer- For about three weeks, I was too nervous to say anything other than, “baguette, s’il vous plait” and then look at Chris, wishing him to know French. These days, I am much more comfortable, and actually spend time reading signs rather than rushing in and out of the bakery. I will check next time and make sure that we are getting “tradition.” We had a new loaf style at a bakery in a new town and HATED it. It might have been a “flute.” It was too big, and too American tasting. I really want to try a sesame baguette but don’t know how to pronounce sesame in French. I am un poulet, vraiment, but growing more comfortable every day 🙂

  1. The store would be closed for every major and minor holiday, and workers would be encouraged to strike.

    that would make it french, but only if the workers than took to the streets when they struck and blocked traffic

  2. “alone or with ice, with or without sugar, but always, red bull”…for a second i thought i learned to read french without realizing…why is that ad on the napkin box en espanol?? do you see a lot of ads, signs, etc in different languages?…is that a european thing? or are you very near spain? just curious 🙂 also, i support your entrepreneurial endeavor.

    • You caught me! This was a picture from when Chris and I were in Barcelona, spending a few exhausted hours between trains. BEAUTIFUL city, as far as our tired legs would carry us, I definitely suggest it. Strangely, we have very few pictures of bread-products. They are eaten too quickly, I guess. If you fly in to Spain in the next two months, we promise to meet you there!

  3. Emilie and Chris, it looks like you are having the time of your lives! I am thrilled for you both. Emilie, we miss you at Moms’ Group, but are so glad you’re off gallivanting and having such wonderful life experiences with your hubby. Also, I love your writing style, and I wonder if perhaps your calling involves more writing than it does teaching…? The tale of your birthday was so engaging, so transparent, so raw…thank you for sharing, and happy belated birthday! 🙂 All the best from all the Hafeles…sending you love and blessings from frigid Wisconsin!

    • Jen, you are too sweet! Early on in this blog, when I mentioned holding back personal information, a fellow writer admonished my fear, and told me that in order to be a great writer one must share their whole self. I am new at considering myself a writer, but I am enjoying it quite a bit. I am also enjoying being in France. I considered nannying just to stay in the country longer, and knew that I could use you or others from Moms’ Group for a reference; what a blissful time we had together. It really was like a leavening agent for my heart.

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