Does size really matter?

Posted by Adam on 13th Oct 2017 in the blog in the video, french culture category

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Personally I am the woman of two sizes: the long one and the long thin one. I don’t often go for the big one as it can be too filling. Oh sorry! Did I mislead you? Are you reading this blog hoping I was going to talk about something else? You funny thing.

Of course I am talking about ZE French Bread or more commonly called in my country le pain.

I truly think that French people stick to the same size of bread for life, probably because of what their own ancestors used to purchase at the boulangerie.

Take my parents for example: they always buy the same size bread: la flûte. Twice as big as a baguette (250g) but way smaller than a gros pain (800g). La flûte is the 'inbetweener' of bread. Saying this, when they have du monde (people) over for dinner, they will lash out and purchase a couple of gros pains. At this point they mean business. These big fellows are roughly the size of three flûtes (I am talking about the bread of course and not my parents).

I shouldn’t disparage the gros pain really, knowing how it brings my sister a tremendous amount of pleasure. I don't really enjoy it as it is hard to cut and eating one slice can fill you up until the next morning and we all know how much I love eating other kinds of food.

Saying this, you can make the most amazing tartines out of one slice and if you do not know what a tartine is I invite you to contact my sister as she is by far the most able tartineur I know on the planet. There are NO rules in her tartineland and in her world absolutely anything can be spread on it (even when it is not spreadable): de la confiture qui dégouline (some drippy jam), de la vache kiri (the laughing cow cheese spread), une tranche ou deux de saucisson avec du sucre en morceau (a slice or two of saucisson with a cube of sugar), du fromage et de la moutarde (cheese and mustard)… Sometime she even spreads all of this onto ONE ALMIGHTY tartine which she then dips in a pint of coffee poured into one of those traditional breakfast bowls. If only I were making this up! But I am not. And do you know what annoys me the most? (apart from the fact that I have to witness this spectacle every morning when I am on holiday in France): it is that I weigh twice as much as she does. No comment.

The best baguettes and pains have to be eaten within a few hours of purchase and this is because there is no additive in the traditional recipe. French people LOVE fresh bread and will often go to the boulangerie twice if needed so they can get hold of the afternoon's freshly made batch… well, I have seen my parents do this. However, they just happen to live 20 yards away from their local boulangerie so maybe it explains the numerous trips.

My father tends to toast the leftover pain the next morning to bring its crispiness back. The man would toast a croûte (crumb) if he could; this is how economical he is and let’s face it, it is probably due to the fact that he did not have much to eat as a kid (yes, he is of this generation…).

My advice: only buy your pain at the supermarket if it is an emergency !!!

To finish, here is a list of the most common breads but not necessarily the most commonly bought in French boulangeries:

Le pain complet or pain aux céréales - wholemeal bread
Le pain de seigle - rye bread
Le pain au levain - sourdough bread
La brioche - sweet bread
Le pain de mie - the sliced bread in a bag (really really not that popular in France; use only if you have nothing else to make your sandwich or croque-monsieur with and in case of an emergency)
Le pain au froment - 100 per cent wheat flour
Le pain aux noix - Nut bread
Le pain d’épice - gingerbread

As for the different sizes …. for all of you who thinks that size matters…. your call ;)

La ficelle - thin but firm
La baguette - not as thin as la ficelle but my gosh sooo crispy
La flûte - a bit bigger than la baguette: the Lady of all bread (just one word for it: CHIC)
Le gros pain - the mastodonte of the bread or should I call it the Fat Flûte!
La boule - a bowl (comme son nom l’indique), never bought it as it is awkward to cut and share!! Unless you make a big hole in the middle, slam a camembert in it and put it in the oven for 10 minutes. ARGHHHH NICE!
La miche or Pain de campagne - a bigger bowl shape but made with sourdough. Don’t cut it, just tear it!!! GRRR..

Enough about this now! Why don't you listen to my podcast where you can hear Adam butcher French pronunciation. It is shameful really when you know how long he has owned Learn French with Alexa for (no comment).

Why not check out my bakery visit in the video below...

That's it for me. Bisou bisou xx

Alexa visits her local bakery

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