December 1, 2022

"Still, the baguette is under threat..."

"... with the country losing 400 artisanal bakeries a year since 1970 — a decline that is especially significant in France’s rural areas, where supermarkets and chains have overtaken traditional mom-and-pop bakeries. To make matters worse — and in a sting to French pride — sales of hamburgers since 2017 have exceeded those of jambon-beurre, sandwiches made with ham on a buttered baguette."

 From "A Slice of France, the Baguette Is Granted World Heritage Status/More than six billion baguettes are sold every year in France. But the bread is under threat, with bakeries vanishing in rural areas" (NYT).

The article links to this 2007 discussion of the deep cultural meaning of bread: 

35 comments:

Wilbur said...

I watched 4 minutes of the bread perfessor. What a joke, as Conan correctly regards him. But it's his life's work, don't you know.

I love bread as much as anyone, choosing to eat true whole wheat since my 20s. My healthy colon and GI system thank me for that.

But whole wheat does not work well for many foods, like pizza. So I compromise and eat the white flour. What a sacrifice.

Here's a foreign concept for our friends in France: the marketplace will decide what flourishes and what does not. Inexorably so. My Publix makes very acceptable French baguettes every morning, and sets them out next to the dreaded hamburger buns. Customers choose what they want.

Clyde said...

Muslims don't eat ham sandwiches.

Christopher B said...

We ended a trans-Atlantic cruise pre-COVID bouncing among ports in Ireland, England, and France, and got to spend a hot minute touring Paris. We completely by accident wound up grabbing a couple of those ham sandwiches for lunch since we only had an hour or so to wander from the somewhat random spot where our tour bus parked. Made an interesting contrast to the sandwiches I grabbed as we beat a hasty, windy, and rainy retreat from Stonehenge. The English have .. interesting ... ideas about sandwich fillings.

Pete said...

What a fun professor! I wish I had him in college.

Temujin said...

As Clyde noted: Muslims do not eat ham sandwiches. And there's no denying the shift in demographics in France (and coming soon to your own neighborhoods here, but more on that in a minute). When there's a shift in societal attitudes (are we all Gluten-free yet?) and a shift in demographics, that can spell the end of traditions and cultures, including centuries old food types that were once the backbone of a society.

I love breads. And nothing is as good as freshly baked breads from a fine boulangerie. The French, Italians, Spanish, Indians, Jews, Germans, Russians, etc., etc. pretty much every nationality and culture has a type of bread at the center of their culture. Their gatherings around a table, with food, and a great bread being a central part of that. Everyone except American Christians who's love for White Bread is legendary and curious.

But the changing currents in Europe mean the end or a siphoning off of artisan bakeries- the boulangeries. On a different, but similar note, in North America there was once a large number of Jewish Delis. From New York to Montreal, Detroit to Chicago, Miami to Houston to Los Angeles. But- as food trends change, eating trends change, generational trends change, the great delis of North America are dying out. And, for those not familiar with what I'm talking about, it's not the deli at your local grocery store. Not the place where you get white cheese and sliced bologna. It's the place where you used to get a sandwich on hard crust Jewish Rye, stacked high with pastrami or corned beef so tender it would blow you away, a bit of hot mustard, and a Kosher dill pickle and potato salad on the side. Those places are going and gone. They were around for generations, but now the current generation doesn't want to work that hard, and doesn't want to be in the restaurant business.

And I don't blame them. But we all lose when the bread artisans and the Jewish delis go. Among others. One day the current generations will wake up and ask: Why is it that every one of our restaurants serve us mixed up shit in a bowl?

Danno said...

I remember catching some excellent baguettes, eclairs and other French breads and pastries in Quebec a number of years ago. Patisseries were all over the place. Are they at risk too?

Kevin said...

Under threat from whom?

Is apathy a threat?

tim in vermont said...

I live right near Quebec, and the French Canadians guard their way of life through a kind of fascism, I would call it. On the US side of the border, farms are hundred of acres, and worked by large equipment by very few people, and so the countryside is empty of restaurants and bars, etc, but on the Canadian side, the farms are smaller and farmers live closer together, there are all kinds of businesses to serve them. Quebec uses price controls to keep the old ways alive, like making cheese in small factories the traditional way. Here, the Ben and Jerry's plant is huge, serving a world-wide customer base; the real plant, not the one where they do the tours. The only way the old ways are remembered is road names, like "Cheese Factory Road" where there is no longer any chess factory. I wonder if one day traditionalist French will begin to emigrate to Quebec.

Marcus Bressler said...

A true baguette is a blissful thing. Use a high-fat content salted butter brought to room temperature and slather that sucker. Cut a large piece and bite into it, pulling it away into your mouth to enjoy. Heaven.

Read a book about a foodie that went abroad to work as an apprentice in different kitchens and the most rewarding experience he had was in a boulangerie.

Many restaurants no longer serve bread as a part of dinner. Bread is not, IMHO, an afterthought but rather a component of a meal. It sets the standard for what follows.

Marcus B. THEOLDMAN

It is difficult to make good bread (at home) in South Florida due to the climate. As another has said, yes, Publix has SOME good bread but also some awful stuff. You can no longer buy full loaves of rye or marble rye. Haven't seen pumpernickel in ages. There is a local bread shop named Bread By Johnny in town that make delightful loaves and the unreserved products are usually gone by noon. He's a young fellow plying his trade but the profit margin on "just" bread can't be good enough to survive. Most bread bakeries have to have lots of restaurant accounts to stay in business.

Tim said...

When I used to spend time in France, the rural supermarket that I went to had baguettes and other artisanal breads right there in wooden boxes. As I love bread, I thoroughly enjoyed shopping there. The supermarket was the large one named after the French general, I have forgotten the name.

Left Bank of the Charles said...

Italian breads are much better than French breads, at least as made in America.

Birches said...

What Clyde said.

Ficta said...

"The English have .. interesting ... ideas about sandwich fillings." The first time I had a cheese and chutney sandwich it was life changing! No disrespect to a baguette and brie; also one of those reasons to be cheerful.

I really miss the Baltic bakery from my days in Chicago (I believe it's long gone now). Each Baltic state had its own distinctive style of rye bread, and none of them had, ugh, caraway, shoveled in. Caraway is fine in it's place, but most Americans think that's the taste of rye.

lgv said...

Is it a decline of the baguette or a decline in bakeries? It is a significant distinction. Most supermarkets where I live (both US and Mexico) have large functional bakeries. The decline of stand alone bakeries in rural areas is not an indication of the demise of the baguette, but rather the changing economics of grocery stores and small businesses. As base/fixed costs of businesses (fees, taxes, regulatory paperwork) increases, the competitiveness of small businesses diminishes greatly.

The Muslim angle is less in play as the cause since they are noting the decline in rural areas where the demographics are less impacted by immigration, more so by plain population decline.

Rusty said...

I feel their pain. I haven't had a decent baguette since our local Trader Joes changed bakers. There isn't any bakery around here that makes anything like a true baguette.

Achilles said...

Wheat, Grains, and most beans are just straight up poison to Human Beings.

Some populations have made some evolutionary adaptations to reduce the negative effects of these substances but they cannot really be considered food if you actually look at what they do to the intestinal lining of the human gastrointestinal tract.

Our digestive tract is a very long tube and it is lined in such a way that everything we consume through our mouth at a fundamental level is outside our body until we defecate it out. Much of what we consume is never allowed to get into our bloodstream.

The small intestine in particular has a lining that is one cell thick that filters the things we need out of food and allows beneficial nutrients into our blood stream. This lining has particularly tight bonds that make it an effective filter for things as small as amino acids and glucose and various minerals and nutrients.

Wheats and Grains attack this lining and push the bonds apart. This allows things into our blood stream that should not be there. This is being referred to as "leaky gut."

Our brain has a very similar structure called the "blood brain barrier." It is attacked by the same things in a very similar way.

That torpor and brain fog/nap time after a big meal with certain foods in it is your body shutting down your brain to protect it from the bullshit you just put in your body. This is different from Adenosine buildup making you drowsy.

It very likely will be announced fairly soon that there is a link between these foods and Parkinson's and Alzheimer's. The medical establishment and the giant corporate food industry are protecting their billions but these links are undeniable at this point.

tim in vermont said...

On special occasions, we will drive to Quebec to get bread.

Anthony said...

When I went to Paris in 1994 I believe, the busiest place on the Champs-Élysées was the McD's.

Haven't you heard? Bread, especially white bread, has been Evil for a while now. Gluten, ick! Carbs, ick!

mikee said...

The market will decide what is available, but that is not a guarantee of any intrinsic quality of the products sold, just that they are marketable. Homemade bread rules. A baguette is wonderful because it is both inexpensive and tasty, and prep time is zero if you have a bakery in your neighborhood. Wonder Bread still sells more. Give me a slice of fresh sourdough.

gspencer said...

Whenever I go shopping I always bring my own custom-made baguette to place into my paper shopping bag (at the correct angle) that I carry in my arms as I leave the store. I want people to know that I respect the French.

https://c8.alamy.com/comp/2G5362C/smiling-woman-holding-shopping-bag-while-talking-on-smartphone-outdoors-2G5362C.jpg

https://previews.123rf.com/images/olhatsiplyar/olhatsiplyar1907/olhatsiplyar190700159/133696220-woman-holding-bag-with-baguette-and-food-the-concept-of-shopping-lifestyle-.jpg

Wilbur said...

tim in vermont said...
I live right near Quebec, and the French Canadians guard their way of life through a kind of fascism, I would call it.


Trust me, they all come to Hollywood (FL) for the winter. Seems every other car on the street has Quebec plates.

Yancey Ward said...

Who the fuck cares any longer- the French people themselves will be gone by 2100.

rcocean said...

The Europeans are big on Bread. Yet they are just as healthy as Americans. i don't know how they do it. I do know the croissants in Paris were the best ever.

Lem Former Twitter Aficionado said...

Man shall not live on Twitter alone.

tim in vermont said...

"When I went to Paris in 1994 I believe, the busiest place on the Champs-Élysées was the McD's."

IIRC, the restaurants there all sucked. I have a rule, that the better the location, great view, primo tourist location, whatever, the more mediocre the food, since they spent all of their money on location. Exceptions to this rule are rare.

Lurker21 said...

"Your majesty, the bloggers are saying that bread is poison to humans."

"Then let them eat cake."

Nothing like a rousing attack on the staff of life to start the day going.

I can see the point of things like the "slow food movement" or preserving France's food culture, but at this point, aren't we all barbarians anyway?

Some of us just try harder to hide it.

robother said...

Coming of age in 50s America, when I began traveling to Europe the quality of the bread in the Catholic core nations was amazing. France, Italy, Spain, haut cuisine or workingman cafe, it didn't matter. Everyone had a higher standard for bread. Rejection of transubstantiation had at least this material consequence for Protestant Europe (and by extension America).

Mark said...

A true baguette is a blissful thing. Use a high-fat content salted butter brought to room temperature and slather that sucker. Cut a large piece and...

Um, you want to try that again?

Do what to get a large piece?

ColoComment said...

Great Harvest in Ft. Collins CO has a huuuuge customer base. Great bread, traditional and more.
I'm as (and probably more) frugal as the next person, but am quite willing to spend $$ to get quality bread products.

As an aside: my Croatian grandmother worked in a bakery in Opatija before she immigrated in 1904, and every Christmas she and her sisters would bake dozens and dozens of loaves of Potica, bread with a sweet dough rolled around a honey-walnut filling. (goggle it for pics.)
During the week or two before Christmas, we would wait impatiently for the loaf-filled carton to arrive in the mail. Toasted, slathered with butter, to partake of it was a taste of heaven....

Fred Drinkwater said...

Gspencer: in case you are not already familiar,
https://www.lileks.com/institute/frahm/

John henry said...

Nothing, absolutely nothing can beat a loaf of Pan de Agua hot out of the oven as we get it in a dozen or two bakeries in my town of 30m. No two seem to make it exactly the same way. Some make a dense, semi-chewy loaf with a heavy crust, others make a light airy loaf with next to no crust others in between.

I love them all.

Pan de Agua is made in 1 pound loaves about 2' long.

John Henry

Rusty said...

Mark has never had a real baguette. From a bakery just off Rue Paul Belamy in Nante. Still warm from the oven. You start eating it on the way home and then butter from Brittany. Heaven.

Kirk Parker said...

"Is apathy a threat?"

Why should I care?

KellyM said...

I got hooked on the ham sandwiches from little boulangeries in Paris. You might think that the butter would be a drawback, but it really enhanced the flavor of the ham. And with the sliced cornichons added - just delicious. There's a small cafe on Columbus Ave. here in SF where if you walk in early enough in the morning the day's ham sandwiches are being made fresh. I think they add slices of brie as well plus the butter. Decadent.

A year or two ago I went as far as to buy flour from France, in an effort to try to get as close a product as I'd enjoyed on my various trips to Paris. The end results were pretty good - luckily SF water is excellent. But I think my memories tasted far better than the bread.

Marcus Bressler said...

Guilty as charged!
I type faster than I think sometimes.
You TEAR a piece of baguette ...

Thanks

Marcus B. THEOLDMAN