Sunday, August 30, 2009

The French are Back Too!

Since most French people have 6 weeks of vacation, many of them take off for the beach/the country/the United States for the month of August. The little street where I shop, Rue des Martyrs, has been deserted for weeks, and is just starting to wake up for business. The bakery across the street has been shuttered for over a month, opening tomorrow with their amazing old-time baguettes. My neighbors are starting to trickle back with very nice tans and even more interesting musical tastes - classical in the morning out the kitchen window, accordion practice in the afternoon in the courtyard, possibly French rap in the evening, and some Arabic singing late at night. The lonely little boy down the row has been waiting for his friends to return, and now they race up and down the courtyard, shooting passersby with empty waterguns.

Tangent about the bread in Paris, not all of it is good. Really. The decline of French bread is sad, many boulangeries use a commercial mix to make their loaves. The huge mills provide the flour, yeast and salt in a certain combination, the baker just adds water, lets rise and bakes. It isn't bad bread, but it is very soft inside, with a bland taste - it also gets stale very fast. The "real" bakeries in Paris use a starter, like sourdough, to make a bread that rises slower, but tastes so much better. Some bakeries make both commercial - for about .90 euros, and offer 'traditionnel' for about 1.10. Some sprinkle sesame seeds, and others look like they are covered in bird seed (called cereal bread, which costs about 1.20). I usually buy the traditional version, when I can find it.

If you come to Paris, you should see Poilane Bakery - they are the most traditional, and possibly the most famous bakery here. Regina and I went to see the shop - and although I was so hot from walking around the city, that I didn't want to ask if we could see the ovens, she did, and they let us check out where the bread is made. The flour is stone-ground, the salt is a light grey color, and they let the round loaves rise in the cutest woven baskets lined with linen before shoving them into a hotter than hell oven - flames I could feel from across the room. The boules are very dense with a good strong flavor. Rumor has it that American celebrities have Poilane bread flown in for parties. I might bring some home for Christmas.

The bakery is on very fashionable street on the Left Bank, and we found an amazing hat store with the cutest black velvet beret (yes, it had a bow). I didn't want to try it on, since spending 80 euros on a winter hat just isn't in my student budget. So, if I find a job, not likely without a work visa, I might just treat myself to it! Or I could not do laundry for a two months and that would pay for it.

1 comment:

  1. it must have been desserted in August, good thing you had guests to keep you busy. Loved hearing/reading about the bread process, interesting. Can't wait to eat more bread!


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