Living in France for 3 months with Jeannine & Roger
Gensac 24th May
Like most mornings the day starts with a trip to the bakery to buy a baguette and cake. However the educated would know we don’t go to the bakery and we don’t buy a baguette or a cake, so today’s blog, French word and taste of France is all about the French etiquette of buying bread.
Lesson 1 - Find yourself a good Boulangerie or Pâtisserie. What’s the difference? Well a Boulangerie bakes their bread, a Pâtisserie buys it in. In Duras we have a choice of 3 bread shops but only Aux Pains des Ducs bake their own.
Lesson 2 - You enter the shop, take your place in the orderly queue, and enthusiastically say bonjour to the other customers and in reply to the shop assistant, even if she is serving other customers. Apparently bonjour is the most important word in the French language, even more than s’il vous plaît. It is not only a greeting but a mark of respect and acknowledgement to the recipient that you see them as an equal. Bonjour needs to be spoken on entry to the shop and on payment, if not you may find you get the worst baguette.
Lesson 3 - Patience is a virtue, you will notice while standing in the queue that all the locals have a 5 minute conversation with the shop assistant about the weather and their family. Nobody in the queue gets agitated or walks out, they know the etiquette.
Lesson 4 - New Zealanders do not eat true baguette. What we buy at home often breaks all the rules of a traditional loaf. There are strict guidelines as to: the ingredients, the type of flour, the proving time, the baking method and the shape and length. Roger’s favourite is the “baguette tradition”, an irregular shaped loaf with a crusty outer and soft centre.
Lesson 5 - It’s best to speak French even if you are crap at it; the French hate the English and will become very difficult to deal with if you don’t make an effort. I let Roger do the ordering, I find my Kiwi accent only confuses them more as they can’t tell the difference between my doux = sweet and deux = two. So if I want a sweet bun I end up getting 2 buns.
Lesson 6 - It is rude to point with your index finger, something to do with history and witches. So if you want one baguette, hold up your thumb, not your index finger. It makes sense, when you use your fingers to count to five you start with the first finger, not the second or index finger.
Lesson 7 - Don’t touch the shop assistant; money goes on the tray by the till.
Lesson 8 - Take your goods and don’t forget to say merci and au revoir. It is debatable whether you should say a bientot or au revoir. A bientot is goodbye to somebody you expect to see soon. Most shop assistants don’t know if you will be back again unless you are a local and so they normally end your visit with a bonne journée, which is ‘have a nice day’.
Lesson 9 - Be prepared for your baguette not to be wrapped. Some shops only put a token piece of paper just where your hand goes. So in Aubeterre, where we had to drive to the bakery, we ended up with a back seat covered in flour.
Lesson 10 - Baguette is served best with butter and enjoyed at home. The French don’t eat on the run, besides what else are you going to do with your two hour lunch break.
That ends today’s lesson on boulangerie etiquette, Bon appetite.
Today’s blog is headed Gensac because all that bread was walked off geocaching in the ancient village of Gensac and the old river port town of Flaujaques.
Jeannine & Roger
A couple of people who decided to try living in France for three months, to absorb some of the culture and to try a diet of Baguette, Cheese and Wine.