Strange Baguette Habits
|Van in her Amelie episode of Atlanta|
I am not a baguette lover. Quelle surprise. You might be asking ‘what do you even enjoy about the place?’. Answer: cheap rent. But no the baguette really is a strange thing to me. As far as bread goes it’s subpar, it goes stale instantly, and besides that scene in Atlanta, what is it good for? Now a loaf of fresh rosemary bread sprinkled with sea salt, dipped in olive oil? 🤤 a sourdough? A ciabatta? Or Shiner Bock beer bread dipped in honey butter? I love bread. I just don’t love the baguette.
I finally bought a baguette the other day after not having consumed one in maybe a year. I was craving it, and sometimes I’ll want one with a bit of Boursin or some Noirmoutier salted butter. Some French ways have rubbed off on me. But around 11pm when I was rummaging in my kitchen for a midnight snack, I remembered I had baguette left, and I thought why not finish it before it goes off? Of course having only purchased it 10 hours before it had already gotten hard. Le sigh 🙄
What do you do with stale baguette? That’s when I remembered something I used to see when I was teaching English. The little girl I used to teach to would sit for her morning breakfast which consisted of bits of baguette, presumably from the night before, and a cup of milk. She would dip the stale baguette in it and eat it. I always thought it was such an odd and peasanty breakfast, that of course only the French could come up with. And then I started thinking about all of the weird ways French people eat baguette.
When I worked for a family back in 2014 the mother bought a fresh baguette every day. She was the only French person I ever met who did that. Consistently, every day. It would be sliced and served alongside dinner like you get when you go to a restaurant. And she had this amazing ability to debone a chicken with only her knife and fork, which is apparently some posh way of eating your food that only the upper classes can accomplish.
Anyway it always used to surprise me because I would have dinner with them and they always cleaned their plates. Not like in America, where we leave food behind, which is how one does because one is not a savage. This is the opposite of what you do in France. To this day I have never seen a French not clean their plate.
But by far the weirdest ritual at the end was taking a piece of baguette, skewering it with their fork, and them using the soft side to mop up every last bit. In effect leaving the plate spotless. Again another habit I chalked up to their thousand years of austerity. Americans would never. If you did that at an American table they would think you couldn’t afford food.
As I worked with lots of children, most of the habits I saw were what I assumed only children’s habits. Apparently they are not. For goûter (after school snack) I taught English to one kid who preferred this habit with Pain au lait and two squares of Monoprix dark chocolate. She would open the bread (cut in half long ways) stuff the two bits of chocolate in and then eat it. Sometimes she would want both sides slathered in butter 😖 You can do it with baguette, and apparently this practice is perfectly normal, but I just want to know why? Pain au chocolat I get, because the bread is a flakey pastry puff, but baguette???
And lastly, probably the most disgusting practice, but is quite common, bread with buerre and jambon. Butter to me is something used very sparingly. In America ask any healthy American and most will look at a stick of butter as an artery clogger of death that one must use as a last resort and if so very, very sparingly (we prefer olive oil). But a little girl I taught English too would come down before bed when her parents were gone. She would take a piece of baguette, slather both sides in butter, stick in a piece of jambon, and promptly eat it. Buttery ham… it just sounds slickly gross. I've never had the inclination to try it.
Honorable mentions go out to keeping it in the freezer (a family I worked with would just toss it in, no ziplock covering, and then take it days/weeks/months later), and the end of the baguette sticking out of the paper bag where one then goes waving it out and about on the street, the metro, in a bike basket, under one’s armpit. It really is an interesting thing. I defy you to now look around and not see all of the strange and unusual ways it is consumed.