Monday, March 30, 2015

Because I'm all about that bread, 'bout that bread (no bagel!)

That is a bold-faced lie.  I love bagels.  It used to be my breakfast of choice when I lived back in the US of A.  I'd put my frozen Lender's bagel in the toaster oven and afterwards spread some margarine on it, sit back on the couch and watch the Today show.  Man, I miss Ann Curry*.  Sometimes I'd add a fruit yogurt to my breakfast, along with juice.

But when I arrived in France I saw just how important (read: obsessed) the French are with bread.  Though you will of course find those who eat cereal and yogurt, the vast majority seem to prefer their hunk of baguette and a bowl of hot chocolate (or a cup of coffee).  And although some will buy "industrial" bread that stays good for a while and is pre-sliced, most folks like to buy their bread fresh out of the oven from their local bakery or from the bakery section of the supermarket.

That image of the Frenchman (in a beret!), riding a bike with baguettes under his arm is not far from the truth.  And I have actually seen people doing that on more than one occasion (ok, minus the beret).  On the TV news here they often refer to the price of a baguette to indicate that flour prices are rising, and it is such a basic staple for the French meal.

Most French people or those who happen to be living in France like myself, have a mental conversation in their heads around 4 p.m.  For me, it goes something like this:

Hmm, do we have any more bread at home?  Maybe a few slices, but they're a bit stale. Ok, when can I stop by the bakery?  Darn, it's closed on Wednesday.  Oh, I'll just pick something up at the corner store.  Or I've got those pre-cooked ones in the cupboard that I can pop in the oven in the morning.  Phew, we're saved...But I still miss Ann Curry.

Purists like my parents-in-law would never dream of buying the pre-cooked demi-baguettes (half-sized).  They have recently had to adapt their bread-eating habits since the bakery in their village closed and the baker who used to deliver to their house stopped doing so.  Now they ask Remi to pick bread up on the way or have to get some when they drive to the supermarket three villages away.

I, however, am covered up with bread possibilities in my little metropolitain area.  There are bakeries in every neighborhood, supermarkets galore and even bread from the frozen foods store that I can let defrost in my fridge.  But, to be honest, the bread from the real bakers is the best, and there is something about a chunk or slice of fresh bread that is still slightly warm and lightly crusty...

Here is the low-down on the bread types in my part of France...

When you go to the bakery, the first thing is to decide what kind of bread you want.  The choices can be confusing!

My favorite is the pain de campagne, a kind of half-whole wheat one.  I generally buy it sliced (coupé), and at a bakery they will cut it for you.

So the conversation would go something like this:
Me: Bonjour (ah, don't forget that or they'll see straight away you're an eager tourist!).
Je voudrais un pain de campagne coupé, s'il vous plaît. (Hello, I'd like some "country-style" bread, please.) 
Baker: C'est tout? (That's all?)
Me: Oui, merci. (Yes, thanks.)

There is also the pain complet, more like a wholeweat. 

But the one that seems to sell the best is of course the traditional baguette.
This can come be white bread or any of the above bread types (campagne, complet).  It can even be dressed up in different shapes like this braided one I found recently.

That floury goodness was just calling for some Nutella.

 Do not mistake brioche for bread.  Brioche is a very buttery version of bread that is often eaten as a dessert (though you can eat it for breakfast, too).  Let's say it's more of a Sunday breakfast thing, just as we Americans might not have bacon and eggs every day. 

When I first came to France my host family insisted that one shouldn't put butter on brioche since it is already very rich.  Jam is ok though, or you can just eat it plain.  Apparently it was this, not cake, that Marie-Antoinette suggested the peasants eat (since they didn't have any bread, it does seem logical that brioche is an option).  Gotta love the girl for trying.

It all just goes to show that the French have been thinking about breakfast for literally centuries.

So what is your breakfast of choice and how do they feel about bread in your location? Do you come from a "white breaded world" (you uptown girl, you).   "Never was a cornflake girl" myself.  And I've never had "kippers for breakfast."  (Bonus points if you can identify those references.)

*Ann Curry is a supercool American journalist who was on the Today show for years.  She kind of got ousted or put to the side in the past few years.  She's got more elegance in her little finger than most people do in their whole body.


Lindle said...

Love love love bread, and that is probably NOT good for watching one's weight.
My breakfast always includes some sort of bread. It used to be the yummy Bagel Factory bagels we'd drive all the way to Cahaba Heights for. I would melt cheddar cheese on them and sprinkle with nutritional yeast. Mmmmmmm.
Now, I'm into oatnut bread, which is quite hardy (hearty?) with Smucker's natural peanut butter and Nutella. If you spread it on while it is freshly popped out and hot from the toaster, it's like melting a Reese's cup on yummy bread.
I miss all the lovely bread from France. It is truly a feast for the eyes and the palate. NOT...ever...forget the pan au chocolat or the croissants.
C'est parfait!

Jenenz said...

We're lucky to have many artisan bakeries in San Francisco, home of sourdough. I was baking bread a lot a few years ago, then I just ran out of time. Once in a while, I'll schedule time to bake a loaf or make pizza dough. Have to start it the day before. And it tastes to good to have freshly baked bread.

Two weeks ago we baked irish soda bread (tried a new recipe) and this weekend we baked raisin bread using a brioche-like dough.

I'm still trying to perfect the chiabatta. One day I will get it right.

Mil said...

Mmm, that takes me back, mom. I can taste that melty cheese and nutritional yeast like I'm there.

Those breads sound great, Jennet. I do remember you posting about the bread recipe that was so popular a few years back. Sourdough is to die for!

Ksam said...

Next time you come to Paris, you'll have to stop by the newly-opened Bruegger's bagels at Montparnasse...I hear they fly the dough in from NYC lol.

And funny you should say that about Ann Curry - I was so glad when she got booted. I'm not sure why, but I found her super insincere and slightly annoying. I think maybe she's meant for more serious news, and not the light-heartedness of morning television?

Btw, have you ever considered getting a slingbox? Thanks to mine, I now wake up to the Today Show every morning. Granted, it's yesterday's show, but it's still really nice to incorporate some of my old US habits into our life here. Having such easy access to American TV has been great for C's English too.

Mil said...

I see your point, Ksam, regarding Ann Curry. She does have a serious tone, but I found she could cut up, too. You Parisians sure are lucky to get bagels! Shipped every day! Amazing. I wonder if you can also get the Today show on youtube? I'll have to check it out.

Holly Hollyson @ Full of Beans and Sausages said...

Mmmmmmm bread. I love baguettes. I have always eaten them just as they come - especially love them when they are warm from the oven!