Pain, Amour et Chocolat

If it’s Friday, it must be France …

Where else but France would a Valentine’s lovefest include bread? Some might look at the title and think “pain” = heartbreak, considering the love connection, but nope, not here …  le pain is the French word for bread.

Last weekend, for the 5th consecutive year, this three-day show tempted crowds celebrating love and all its pleasures in Antibes which, as many of you know, is my favourite place on the planet and was my home for 4 months last summer.

More specifically this show focused on the simples pleasures of bread, love and chocolate.

I’m betting that many who visited the show also stopped in at Choopy’s for a coffee and one or two of their homemade scrumptious cupcakes! That’s what I would have done.

This may sound crazy to some but, for me, stepping into a French boulangerie (bakery) is the same as finding yourself in the most intoxicating chocolate shop.  Seriously, the display of goods in some French bakeries is like that in an art gallery.

IMHO, no one does baking better than the French – from the basic baguette, brioche, and croissant to the morning superstars of pain au chocolat and pain au raisin to the variety of round, flat and long loaves to the cakes and pastries that scream to be eaten at any time of day or night. Delicieux!

Bread has always been a staple of the French culture but nowhere was its political significance greater than at the beginning of the French Revolution. A shortage of grain due to droughts and poor farm management caused the price of bread to increase way beyond the means of the  poor who were also being taxed outrageously while the aristocracy cavorted. For some, bread was the only meal of the day. In response to growing unrest, one government leader suggested the peasants should eat straw … hmm, not a wise move … he was soon found hung in the square, his mouth stuffed with straw.

Bread riots spread and when a rumour suggested the government was hoarding flour at Versailles, the palace was stormed. Read about The Women’s March on Versailles, October 5, 1789.  King Louis XVI and his wife, Marie Antoinette, went by carriage back to Paris followed by an enraged mob that grew to tens of thousands, all hell broke loose and the rest is history.

This was one of the earliest events  of the French Revolution and, although it has grown into a bit of a post-Revolutionary urban myth, it proved to be a defining moment along with the  storming of the Bastille three months earlier. Click here to read more about the French Revolution and other political and social issues that brought it about.

After the revolution, the government made certain bread would always be affordable for even the poorest family and, as a result, bread is surprisingly inexpensive in France. Bakeries are found in every town, down to the smallest hamlet and bread is baked twice a day. Lineups are part of the tradition and very social although you need to know what you want to order when your turn comes up. Dawdling is not a good idea!

Every region of France has its own remarkable and unique stye of cuisine and that includes bread. Virtually every meal includes bread but no side plate for it … so don’t ask for one!

So here’s to love and chocolate and … well, why not … at least if you are in France … to bread!

I don’t usually eat a lot of bread but when we are in France it’s a different story and one of my mantras is “Vive le pain” as I waddle trot off to  join the lineup for our daily supply. Fortunately visiting that part of the world also involves a lot of strenuous walking and hiking so you can fool convince yourself you’re working off that croissant! Here’s a shot of our bread board on a typical day.

How do you feel about bread? Is it part of your normal diet or a once-in-a-while treat? Do you or have you ever made your own bread or pastries? Back in the day, my grandmother and my mother made bread every week. When you travel are there places you visit that serve traditional food  you love to eat? 

Comments

  1. Oh, YUM!
    Wonderful baking.

  2. I make my own pizza dough when I’m feeling industrious. I know how to make cinnabuns.

    I always make my own pie crust–which can be anything from a basic pastry crust to a ginger snap crust. To me, homemade just tastes better when it comes to pies.

    I have made my own hamburger buns and my own dinner rolls. I cooked them almost done and froze them. We got them out as needed. They were really good.

    I don’t make cakes since my husband doesn’t like them. But I’d be interested in learning. LOL :D

  3. Ah, the French! Such delightful treats. Wonderful pictures, and a bit of history to boot. Thanks Patricia.

  4. OK, I’ve got the urge to jump on the Eurostar now and go and buy a fresh baguette, some brie and a bottle of red wine. Perfect dinner. Or… croissants for breakfast! What a lovely post, and you’re absolutely right: there’s nothing better than walking into a French bakery. Although, I have to say, the German ones aren’t too bed either. XX

  5. …too BAD even. What am I thinking? Only just got up, can’t be tired still? Ooops. Sorry about that. XX

  6. What a great post, and now I’m totally hungry! Those photos of the bread were amazing, I could almost smell it.

    I love to bake when I have a chance, pizza crust, cinnamon rolls, all sorts and types of breads…

    And I’m convinced that anything that you put that much effort into creating winds up being calorie neutral when you eat it, so vive le pain!

    Thanks for making my mouth water and for the history lesson! No wonder the French take their bread so seriously.

  7. Now I’m even more eager to jump on the plane for my trip this summer. I, too, have photos of customers lined up outside my favorite boulangerie on a Sunday morning. Last year I was still in France for the first week of August and it was a disaster because the two best shops were closed for annual vacation. I just bought my bread at the hypermarché.

    I went through a bread baking period, but didn’t have the passion to commit to it. However, I always make pie dough from scratch and buttermilk biscuits.

    • Oh, lucky you to be heading to France this summer. Do you always go to the same area? Those August closings can be distressing! It’s so classically French, isn’t it, that shops close during peak times because having a vacation in good weather is more important than the $$ they lose. I like that about the culture!

      Making pie dough and biscuits is so admirable. Until my next novel is finished I feel like I barely have time to make toast!

  8. I live in Serbia, and bread is as important here as it is in France — or even more. While I don’t eat much bread, it’s unimaginable for most people here to not eat bread with every meal. Sadly, with the ruined economy and everyone looking for quick profit and therefore producing only low quality (you wouldn’t believe just how low it can get), it’s next to impossible to find a good bakery in Serbia these days — and there used to be great ones, with goods so delicious it was hard to decide which one to take, you wanted to take them all.

    • How sad, Ivana. You know the economy is bad when you can’t find good fresh bread. I can imagine how delicious the goods in Serbian bakeries would have been. After all of the terrible years of strife in your country, let’s hope things turn around soon. Thanks for stopping by!

  9. Oh my hubs and I LOVE bread! his faves are croissants and bagels, my faves are…everything! I don’t allow myself much because I can go overboard. I haven’t done bread baking except for sweet breads which are more like cakes. I do make biscuits and homemade pie dough. I would like to try some, but I’d really rather just eat what bakeries make. It’s hard to find a good one. I’ll have to make a trip to NYC this summer to find one.
    Thanks for sharing this with us…wish I could take that baguette right out of the picture!

  10. You are so right, French bread is the BEST. I still remember when I was 11, flying alone to New Caledonia to visit with some relatives. I stayed with an elderly aunt and we would walk to the boulangerie every morning and buy a baguette to share. It was so much better than anything I had tasted at home, I was in heaven! Also loving the photographs, and the history, oh, what a wonderful post. Now please excuse me, I must go make toast. (Rhyme intended. Toast too.)

  11. OMG this post made my mouth WATER! Bread is like my chocolate. I would give anything to sample these French delights. I could eat bread with butter or a lovely jam as an entire meal. Easily. LOL!!!

  12. Mmmm – a fresh croissant with strawberry jam is almost sinful!

  13. My mom always says that I was raised on bread. We eat A LOT of bread in Poland, just like in France – with breakfast, lunch, dinner and in between! Our breads are delicious, soft on the inside and very crusty on the outside. We eat croissants, rolls, baguettes… yes, just like in France :-) Our sandwiches are open-face, served with a variety of things on – everyone can find a favorite sandwich in my country!

  14. J’adore le pain!

    I think my butt got bigger just reading this post, but oh it’s so worth it. French bread, from a patisserie in France, is like nothing I’ve ever tasted.

    I’ll be in a dreamy state of bliss for the rest of the day just thinking about this post. Your bread board especially…

  15. I love bread, but save it for special occasions because it loves me too.

    The bread in your photo looked so good! Like Tameri, I think I gained weight just drooling over it.

    I didn’t know that about the bread lines. How interesting! Thanks for all the fun facts, Patricia. It’s always such a treat to read your blog. :)

I love hearing from you ~ thanks for stopping by

*