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Saturday, June 30, 2012

THE BAGUETTE

While I am in France, I have devised a morning walk to take the place of my four mile contitutional in Chapel Hill.  I walk along Boulevard St. Germain, past Brasserie Lipp, Cafe Flore, and Les Deux Magots, until I come to its end, just across the Seine from Place de la Concorde.  Then I turn right and make my way back along the quais, past the Assemble National, the Mint, the Musee D'Orsay, the Academie Francaise, the Louvre [across the river], and Place St. Michel, back to our little apartment.  Before returning home, I walk up rue Monge to the Keyser bakery, which is open even at 7 a.m., to get a fresh, warm baguette for breakfast.  This delicacy, among the best breads in the world, costs just one Euro 10, roughly $1.40 at today's exchange rate.  By way of comparison, a soft, flabby, tasteless Whole Foods knock-off of the French baguette in Chapel Hill costs maybe three times that.

How on earth do they do that?  Simple.  The state subsidizes the price of bread in France.  Why?  Well, it all goes back to the French Revolution, when the new government instituted bread subsidies, at a time when bread was a principal part of the diet of the masses.

I realize that I am being hopelessly romantic, but this just seems to me the way a state is supposed to act.  What I wouldn't give to be a citizen of a country whose people understood this notion and endorsed it.

7 comments:

P. J. Grath said...

Thank you for giving the route of your morning walk, so I could take the stroll vicariously.

NotHobbes said...

How the destitute in America survive is beyond me.
Poverty in the richest nation on earth must be the hardest to endure

épaminondas said...

As you can see, bread is the essence of LIFE. I know the feeling. Soon trying rue Monge, before going to the "Majestic Café" in Porto, rue Santa Catarina. The best in the world, see it in Youtube.
Yesterday, I went to the "San Marco" in Copenhagen, after you order your fish, they bring you a basket full of freshly backed home made bread, with green olive oil, sel de Guèrande, and le poivre du moulin. It is so o o o o o o GOOOD,
that when they bring you the fish ( turbotin), you think that you could have been utterly satisfied with bread alone. Sorry, I'll stop to talk about the Divine

David Auerbach said...

Bread in France is a complicated story. A few decades ago, bread in Paris was shitty. The so-called baguettes were baked-off from frozen dough. There were hardly any good bread bakeries (pastries remained in a better state, particularly in high-end places). Then there started the great revival, when wood-fired ovens and real levain bread, made on the bakery premises restarted. Partly it was consumer demand, partly law (the word 'artisanal' acquired a specific legal meaning), partly pride of métier. I was lucky enough to live in the 11th for a semester in the mid 80s and did a micro-stage at one of the earliest of the great revived bakeries (L'Autre Boulange). It caused me to go home to Durham and build a bread oven. Fortunately, I don't have to work the hours that real bakers do.
There was a brief moment of time, coincident with the great bread revival in this country, that Whole Foods (née Wellspring) bread was good. They hired Michael London as a consultant and he designed the bakery and the breads. Then his contract expired, they went for unskilled production, ... Weaver Street Market is the best bet for bread, unless you're at my house.

Robert Paul Wolff said...

Hey, David, it sounds to me as though when I get home I ought to make contact with you. I will certainly try Weaver Street Market. The best bread I have ever had in the entire world [including Paris!] can be got at a tiny bakery in Northampton, MA called The Hungry Ghost, on State Street. Their French Batard is to die for.

Bradley said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Bradley said...

There is lots of great inexpensive bread in the United States, and nearly all our crops are subsidized. In fact, because of U.S. farm subsidies, we are able to export food so cheaply that farmers in poorer nations often can't compete. Whole foods is just a rip off, that's all.