There is something about French bread that we all seem to love. Bread is such a symbol of France, so ingrained in the country’s traditions that to visit a boulangerie and queue with the locals is truly one of the great cultural experiences of France…
For many visitors to France, buying bread in a charming boulangerie is part of the whole experience of French-ness. But what is it that makes us all fall in love with French bread? The taste for sure but it is more than that, the charming boulangeries, baguettes, baskets, packaging, they are all part of the gastronomic and social fabric of France.
Jennifer from Taiwan says that when planning her trip to Paris, she specifically researched boulangeries to visit. She is not alone, many people want to visit famous bread shops in the city – their history and legends hold sway as much today as ever. Take the Moulin de Galette in Montmartre which featured in the film Julie and Julia. It was shown as the boulangerie where Julia Child bought her baguettes and is now firmly on the tourist route alongside Stohrer, the oldest cake shop in Paris. Everywhere you travel in Paris and France you’ll discover an enchanting boulangerie and find that French people love to share their tips for the best bread in town.
Flavia from Brasil says “although going to a boulangerie in France is such a simple thing, it’s deep too” and she’s right. According to statistics, 98% of French people eat bread every single day. One of the most enduring experiences of France is to line up in a good artisan boulangerie early in the morning with the locals and participate in the daily life of the biggest city or the smallest village. The smell of fresh cooked bread, the sound of the crust cracking softly as the baguettes cool down, the pride of an artisan baker as he stacks the bread high and watches the customers’ eyes light up. The whole thing is a delectable experience and produces an emotional response in us. We feel like we are living the life, living the dream if only for a few moments.
The tradition of making bread in France is one of the defining symbols of French culture. Every town has a boulangerie and artisan bakers thrive. Bread spread with butter and jam for breakfast, “tartines” is common. Bread at lunch and dinner is normal, though it is not always a baguette, there is a huge choice.
Becoming a professional baker is a vocation in France. Contests for the best baker in the town, city or region are fiercely fought and are the subject of numerous TV shows. One of the most popular competitions is the ‘Grand Prix de la Baguette de la Ville de Paris’ (Best Baguette of Paris) which carries huge prestige. The work is hard and there are many rules to follow.
By law, the traditional “baguette” must be made from wheat flour, water, yeast and common salt there can be no additives; artisan French bread must contain no preservatives – which means it does not last for days like processed bread. In France, according to a law passed centuries ago, bread must be available to the people. A baker who wants a holiday has to arrange with another baker to have his work covered and direct clients to an alternative source. “Let them eat bread” has real meaning in France and people expect to be able to get it fresh every day.
Eating artisan bread in France really is a gastronomic, social and cultural experience…
The history of the baguette
Making bread in Montmartre, Paris
Celebrating bread in France
Officially the best bread in France