The French and their bread…

As you most likely know, the French could not have a proper meal without bread! How would they eat their cheese, wipe off their plates or make the tartines they dunk in their café au lait?

Bread was discovered by our hunter-gatherer ancestors some 30,000 years ago! No need to tell you that we have had quite some time since to master our technique for producing perfect dough !

Wheat field

10,000 years ago, we domesticated wheat and barley in our green and fertile valleys and were producing a type of flat bread, a modern version of which is still baked in many Mediterranean cultures.

It was not before the Middle Ages that we adopted and institutionalised the art of producing leavened bread which had been “invented” many centuries earlier.

Why didn’t we adopt it earlier!? No one really knows…

French bread

Not only bread then became an indispensable part of our feeding habits, but we used large slices of stale bread as “plates” or trenchers. Once the meal finished we gave the trenchers to the poor… or to the dogs…and the beauty of it is that no dish-washing was involved!

Weren’t we generous and smart?!

The colour of our bread evolved with society. Until the late 20th century, wealthy people would not been seen dead buying and eating anything else than white bread, while the less well-off contented themselves with dark bread made from whole wheat flour.

The irony is that whole wheat flour is much healthier as it has superior nutritional values. It has now become the ‘thing to do” if you are health conscious as too many chemicals are added to obtain perfectly white flour!

Boulangerie - Traditional bakery in Paris

The whole world thinks that French only eat Baguette…well, it is not entirely true! We keep it for the tourists as it is what they expect to see in our boulangeries… and we buy grey or dark bread for ourselves and eat it with immense pleasure in the privacy of our homes!

But don’t tell anyone….

About the author

DeeBee
I am French Parisienne and lived in Asia for nearly 20 years before settling in the UK 3 years ago. I have an interest in everything and every culture and am an avid reader. French linguistics is my "specialty" but I have a passion for history and try to mingle them. Humour is very important to me, I love writing, talking, laughing, exchanging ideas, learning more from others... the world is full of fascinating people! I never leave my home without my camera, there is always something unusual, beautiful or strange to capture. I like to pay attention to details, to the world of the "small", a parallel world if you take the time to look for it...And above all, I love my country of birth, France.
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2 Comments

  • French bread is definitely some of the best in the world. My husband is very interested in baking and has made pain a l’ancienne a few times. There is something about bread that takes numerous days to make that is really special. Thanks for the post!

  • Hi Mary, thanks for your comment.
    I feel a bit lazy about baking but it is without any doubt the way for producing the best pain a l’ancienne! I have found a few bakeries that produce a limited quantity of loaves to maintain the quality of their bread and people queue up for their bread and even place orders.
    I agree with you bread is so good! :)