The French male stereotype:
- Dark floppy hair
- Black beret
- Blue and white striped t-shirt (Marine style)
- Black shorts
- Black plimsolls
- Baguette under one arm
- a necklace composed of garlic cloves and onions
- a bicycle
To my horror, on entering the wardrobe of my French friends, a blue and white striped t-shirt is nowhere to be seen, they do not all possess a bicycle. I am mortified. I take to the streets of Paris to investigate this further and find a trusty baguette.
I try to fit in with the hustle and bustle of the Parisian lifestyle. I am thrown to and fro by old hags and young chic Parisians, one thing they seem to have in common: they are all holding a baguette under their arm, in the basket of their bicycle, in their Louis Vuitton handbag, balanced under a newspaper and a coffee. The French parade around with a baguette as though it was a sign of solidarity and fraternity. They are proud of their 40 cm stick of bread. The remarkable thing is that they put their baguette anywhere. I see a business man place his baguette on the pavement while he ties up his laces, a Madame uses hers to push open the door, half a baguette of a young skaterboy gets stuck in the closing metro doors. This ”pain” is then eaten (obviously without being washed as who washes bread?! – but, all the same, it’s been on the floor, on a bench, in the metro exposed to germs and dirt!)
The crust of a baguette should be golden, even in colour, and crusty. The interior or “mie” should be light airy and often holey. If one has overeaten, it is more common to leave the mie than it is to leave the crust.
I enter a bakery, (I too want to be part of this mysterious bread cult) I ask “une baguette s’il vous plait” I am greeted with a look somewhat disgusted, a shrug of the shoulders and a shake of the head. I am perplexed: I start to become nervous: “Does she know I’m not French? Are only French people allowed to buy baguettes? Have I committed an act of racism by asking for a simple stick of bread?!”
No, apparently she wanted to know which type of baguette I wanted: half a baguette/wholegrain/country style/a flute/wholemeal/traditional: the choice is endless. I give up and ask for a croissant instead.
When next in France, and there is a baguette on the table, please adhere to French bread etiquette:
- French breads are meant to accompany the meal and are commonly served with lunch and dinner. Do not cut the bread with a knife. Bread is to be torn into bite sized servings.
- It is not meant to be eaten separately and is rarely spread with butter. Asking for butter will have you scoffed at.
- A piece of bread that you have torn off on does not go on your plate. It goes on the table. Yes, your OCD may not like this. Do not worry about clearing the crumbs.
- To eat your bread with paté or cheese, tear a bite sized piece off of what you have served yourself and eat that with a piece of the paté or cheese. Do not place cheese on top of an entire section and start munching. The proportion of paté or cheese should be far superior to the portion of bread.
Un repas sans pain n’est pas un repas
– A meal without bread is not a meal.
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