Not a cliché: the French love their bread

French bread - www.MyFrenchLife.orgAh, du pain. No one does bread like the French. It is the symbol of the French way of life.

We all long to recreate that holiday moment when we buy a warm baguette in any corner boulangerie, break off the crust and munch it in ecstasy in the street… And non, it’s not simply a cliché.

While bread is a staple in the French diet, I was still surprised by the endless amount of bakeries when moving to Paris. Even during the short walk from my nearest metro station to my place, I would walk past four boulangeries with wafting smells of freshly baked bread tempting me inside.

I always wondered how it was possible that they all receive enough business.

A dough-based culture

French bread - www.MyFrenchLife.orgThis turned out to be a daft question. The French are fous de pain. 

An article on Le Figaro states that more than nine in ten French people (95%) eat bread every day. And, according to David Chazan of The Times, although the National Bread Making and Baking Institute have found that the French are eating less bread – half a baguette per day on average, compared with a full one in 1970 – bread is still the cornerstone of French eating habits.

Bread is always at the centre of a French family’s table during mealtimes: whether for mopping up their plate, savouring delicious French cheese, or making a morning tartine to dunk in their chocolat chaud or café au lait. Forget having a side plate, bread is such a common occurrence that the French place their bread on the table.

There is more to French bread than simply eating it

The French take their bread very seriously. In France, bread-making is considered an art form. It may consist of the simplest of ingredients, but bakers take utmost pride in their work.

French bread - www.MyFrenchLife.orgAs Alice Bosio of Le Figaro explains, the awards for the best baguette in Paris follow a strict set of guidelines, with baguettes having to measure between 55 and 65 cm and weigh between 250 and 300 grams.

Bread’s centrality in French life is also reflected in many everyday rituals that are second nature to the French. Baguettes, for example, are to be carried à la main and never shoved in with the rest of your groceries.

Bread feeds into many French superstitions. Placing a loaf of bread upside down after cutting it, for example, is regarded as bad luck. This belief goes back to the Middle Ages, when turning a baguette in the opposite direction to others would indicate that it was reserved for an executioner. Some French families even mark a cross sign on a new baguette before cutting it.

Bread is entwined with French history – we all know what happened when Marie Antoinette suggested the hungry crowds eat cake rather than their cherished baguette!

What’s your favourite type of French bread ? Share your love for du pain in the comments box below.

Image credits:
1. Boulangerie in Veigy, via Kylie Thurston Grosser on Pinterest.
2. Boulangerie pâtisserie, via Nicola on Pinterest. 
3. Van with baguettes, via Marine Fouché on Pinterest.

About the Contributor

Selina Sykes

After having spent an Erasmus year in Paris, I have well and truly fallen under France’s mysterious spell. I am a graduate in French and History hoping to channel my love for French language and culture into a future career in journalism. Mes coups de cœur for Paris and all things French can be found in my blog.

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  1. Jennifer Bourne Dec 20, 2013 at 4:35 AM - Reply

    When I read that, I recall the look only American boyfriend’s face when I don’t put the bread on the side plate 🙂

  2. Selina Sykes Dec 20, 2013 at 6:03 AM - Reply

    Oh yes, I do remember the strange feeling during my first time without a plate 🙂

  3. Gerard Lewis-Fitzgerald Dec 22, 2013 at 11:39 AM - Reply

    On dit maintenant que la femme de Louis XVI, d’origine autrichienne, a dit soit “Qu’ils mangent de la brioche” (que certains ont interprété comme une intention bienveillante de la part de la Reine Marie Antoinette, n’ayant aucune méchanceté) soit rien du tout (que le propos lui avait été attribué à tort; quelqu’un d’autre l’a prononcé).
    En tout cas, j’adore le pain – je pourrais pas m’en passer. C’est une joie essentielle de la vie.

  4. Guillaume M Jul 18, 2014 at 4:12 AM - Reply

    Love my baguette, too !
    Ahah, I always thought strange in the international or renowned hotel restaurants and stuff, when they bring you butter with it … I’m always like “Oh come on, forget the fancy and just bring me a basket of good bread.” It worked more than once. Hehe. But I’m a good customer in restaurants (I drink a lot ……..).

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