The etiquette of the baguette
It doesn’t take much time in France to realise that there is an entire etiquette and culture around the sacred baguette (or largish bread stick).
Every day someone in the family takes the short (sometimes extremely short) stroll to the local boulangerie (bakery) at least once a day and sometimes twice. Bread nuts might go three times a day.
Poor John did the daily bread runs during our stay, catering for the appetites and whims of four hungry and bread-starved adults. Every night there was a discussion about the coming day. How many ‘traditions’ (the name of the loaf we bought) do we need tomorrow? One, one-and-a-half or two?
No matter the choice, it was usually never enough and we had to have a second or third foray of the day.
Libby’s local boulangerie was less than 300 metres from her flat, but she and Daniel agreed that the bakery was going downhill. It used to be good, but the baguettes of late had been disappointing.
In fact, they were so disappointing that we decided to make Poor John walk an extra 200 metres to a boulangerie that was consistently good. And even though we didn’t need it, they sold gluten-free bread twice a week.
But using the new boulangerie was rather embarrassing. By now the closer baker knew us, and then he had to watch us walk by without purchasing. And then see us return with another loaf in hand.
What was he thinking? And where had we bought the other tradition?
But here’s when some more knowledge about France and bread comes in.
Most of France goes on holiday for the month of August. We arrived in Paris towards the end of August and can confirm that most of the city is closed and silent. Shop after shop had their shutters down, and the city seemed to be in hibernation.
But not all the boulangeries.
Up until two years ago, a boulangerie had to get permission from the government to go on holiday. It meant that no one would go without their beloved bread. Good grief, you can’t deprive your locals of a decent baguette.
Even now, when the law has been lifted, boulangeries coordinate their days on and off. Flayosc, a village we stayed in for eight days, has two boulangeries. They each closed one day per week, but on different days. And never on Sunday.
But back to Paris. Libby’s nearby boulangerie closes two days each week, but not the same days as the one farther on.
We also hear that, for the time being, she’s returned to the original boulangerie for most purchases—it’s lifted its game. Maybe the usual baker was on holiday.
And what happens after you buy
There’s an interesting etiquette about what you do after you buy a baguette.
I have to say that when you buy a baguette, it smells so darn wonderful and looks so tempting, that your first desire is to bite off the end.
Guess what? That’s another etiquette.
Most people chomp off a bit as soon as they walk out of the boulangerie. I didn’t know that at first and managed to take home complete loaves for a while. Once Libby told me of the chomp-off etiquette, I followed suit. And the evidence is here. Plus, I started noticing that almost everyone does the same.
Yum, yum, yum!
P.S. Poor John thinks there’s the makings of French film based on ‘when your boulanger goes bad’. Oh, and if you are a bread lover, my cooking blog has several great recipes including this one for yoghurt and herb bread.