Let us talk about Breakfast in France. This of course means delving into the life of baguettes and croissants and how they play a part in French life.
There is a particular, worldwide fascination with French bread, and particularly the baguette. And for all the right reasons. It is delicious. Fresh daily if you are lucky to live in France and have a boulangerie (bakery) nearby.
Did you know there is actually a Bread Law in France? Amongst other things, it dictates that there be only 4 ingredients: flour, salt, yeast, and water. Nothing else.
Consequently, there are no preservatives. This also means it has to be eaten fresh, or it goes hard. It is said that the true indication of a good baguette is that it will not keep from morning into the afternoon. We certainly notice that by mid-day the baguette is getting harder.
But then that is also why most (good-sized) villages have a boulangerie (bakery). Or if a village is too small will generally have a bread van that delivers. Nothing gets between a French person and their bread.
And my goodness, the delicious variations! Thicker, thinner, round, square, sliced, wholegrain… The baguette for example is the thinnest, and cheapest, of the lot. Usually always less than 1 euro. Each type of bread has its own name and everyone has their favourite.
Let’s go on to consider the humble breakfast. At least humble by French standards. Unless, of course, you have a sincere passion for the croissant.
Unlike many other countries, breakfast is not a main meal, nor a get you ready for the day feed in France. It’s generally quite simple: coffee (always coffee) orange juice (a small glass) and a little pastry (croissant lovers I am talking to you) or a piece of bread, maybe with some butter and/or jam. That’s it. Usually.
An American or Brit (Australian?) would be horrified, or laugh, at the cereal aisle in the grocery store here. It’s all chocolate, with about 4 well-known brands of other less sugary grains, and a muesli. And it probably takes up about 1/8 of the aisle. There’s not a lot of choice. And, I suspect, those 4 non-chocolate brands, plus a few of the sweeter ones, are really for those expats here in France. I personally have never seen a French person buy a cereal box.
As for cooked breakfasts. Nope, nada, non. Doesn’t happen. You will struggle to find bacon. Best way to buy it is as a hunk you slice yourself – and it is pretty darned tasty. Baked beans fans, forget it. Though you will find these in the foreign section of the bigger shops. Sausages are large and expected to be eaten later in the day. And eggs are for omelettes.
Breakfasts are surprisingly a meal we cling to the most. It’s a meal we don’t put a lot of thought into over the years. No searching for recipes and trying something new usually. And when confronted with a breakfast different from what we are used to, our minds seem to want to automatically turn our noses up at it. Breakfast, almost more than any other meal, is very, very culturally defining.
And in France, regionally defining as well. Taste Atlas give you a good taste of French traditional regional breakfast dishes. And no surprise, most of them are pastries. And Etramping give you a taste of a full on French breakfast – the variation on the cooked breakfast, generally saved for weekends and hotel stays – as well as a nice comparison to other morning meals in: 16 Different Breakfasts from around the World. (PS. France is the bonus at the end.)
Yes, I am fascinated by breakfasts, and particularly breakfast in France. And French bread. But what if you don’t live in France? Or don’t have a boulangerie near you? Yet, you crave a baguette. Or if you have never had one, would like to taste what all the fuss is about.
Here’s a video just for you, dedicated to the making of the French baguette at home. It might be a nice thing to learn.
PS. Fascinated by all things French? We offer a large selection of great gifts for the francophile in our Shop.
(If you like the look or idea of something, simply click on the image to see more.)