Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Baguette Stalker

Parisien Boy by photographer Willie Ronis "Parisien Boy" by photographer Willie Ronis
Who doesn't know this world-famous photo by Willie Ronis of a Parisien boy carrying a baguette?
But who knew that Parisiens actually walk around with a loaf of bread under their arms in broad daylight!? Two sisters get the training. Naturally older sister gets to carry the bread or baguette...hmph
Can you tell I'm a younger sister?
I spotted this woman coming out of a boulangerie and followed her, hoping for a shot of this French phenomenon... You'd think with at least 6 baguettes under her arm, she was getting in supplies for a restaurant? Mais pas de tout. It's the norm to stock up for the day. Isn't this your typical Frenchman? deciding what wine will go best with his bread... Here's something else about this peculiar phenomenon...
French people are content to walk around with their bread PRACTICALLY NAKED! Exposed to the air and to street polution with just a tiny paper "scarf" around it.
I have a favorite boulangerie where I go for a wonderfully grainy, nutty baguette on rue Vavin. It has no name.
But why when I go in, the saleswoman, before I open my mouth, takes my baguette, neatly cuts it in half and sticks the cut ends into the bag so no bare bits are hanging out? Does she think I am a crazy-hygenic American?
The end of this fab bread, which Rick says I must tear off and eat immediately in the street. It's de riguer. I first bought their bread just for this adorable bag...Here's another rule of thumb in France. When eating in a restaurant or as a guest at someone's home, ALWAYS take your half-eaten bread and PLACE IT ON THE TABLE. Do not ask for a bread plate. When you're home alone you can put your bread on a plate...
A PB reader told me I MUST go to 64, rue Saint-Dominque 75007 and I'm so glad I did! Big Merci! There are 6 Le Moulin de la Vierge throughout Paris and they are all equally beautiful.

Did I mention that everything tastes DIVINE!

The French love these little worker figurines - a bit like Amelie's garden gnomes, non?
Another bread phenomenon. Not only restaurant menus/adoise are out in the street to peruse. Bread menus are there for a quick read too....
 What happens to the bread you don't carry around under your arm - it becomes delicious sandwiches like these at SECCO (formerly Poujauran) at 18, rue Jean Nicot 75007
French babies start training while still in their strollers.
Don't we want to pass as Parisians? Admit it. Here are some rules (regles) to follow:
1. Get on a line, any line.
2. Carry a loaf of bread under your arm, preferably naked (I mean the bread! not you).
3. Walk with a straight-legged stride.
4. Never run across the street. NEVER. Your straight-legged stride will get you there quickly and expediently. Plus drivers will see your baguette like a flashing headlight.
5. NEVER wear a hat even in the Artic temperatures (frequent in Paris).
6. You must wrap 9 yards of fabric around your neck at all times, but you've heard that one a million times.
Oh and try to keep your mouth shut (the biggest give-away)
AND DON'T WEAR SNEAKERS!I overheard a saleswoman saying,
"I can always tell ze Americains by their shoes"
7. And find a dog to drag around after you.


  1. Ah,ah,ah, having a baguette in Paris is not a cliché!!! French people are used to buying a baguette every day after work. Ah, ces Français!!!!!

  2. eh oui cette baguette on l'aime!!!


  3. Just love the way the French dress there children as well children.

  4. asuncion ananda4:51 AM

    I´m happy your Parisian break is going marvellous...While I´m having my Pain aux raisins in Seville in the middle of our Orange Blossom Springtime I wish you a...BJ!!

  5. BEAUTIFUL post, Carol,
    I really enjoyed every bouchee of it!

  6. Loved this piece! I am also vacationing in Paris for several weeks and am really enjoying your blog. Perhaps I will see your distinctive watch on my strolls!
    Today's about the baguettes brings to mind the question of what does the single person do with all the leftover baguettes? Mine become stone hard after 2 days, and I would love good suggestions about bread pudding, bread crumbs, or any useful thing I could do with the various pieces I have left. I hate to through them away. Pigeon food??

    I don't know about "American" clothing... Hats? Not sure. Newsboy caps seems to be universal. I bought cheap berets to wear - probably make me look American for sure! But scarves...I think you should try to do a piece on Parisians and their scarves. I get such a kick out of the scarves -- for both men and women. There are plenty in the store windows. I happen to love them, but no one can wear them with the panache of a Parisian IMO.

    The blog is wonderful. Kudos to you that you can hang out at the patisseries and still keep your figure. I'm afraid that I gain kilos just by looking in the windows. :-)

  7. Cynthia5:23 AM

    Very amusing piece at the end on how not to stick out like a "sore-thumb" while in Paris.
    Good advice,,,the scarf "thing" is also very important in Germany too,,,oh yeah, and PLEASE no SNEAKERS either!!!! Now all I need is a stray dog. Love your blog!!!!!

  8. Wow, terrific post! Your blog has been a wonderful discovery.
    Keep in touch.
    Best wishes, Brigitte

  9. Thanks for this. It was so much fun. I'm new to your blog - are you living there? I was meant to be but that's what 90% of bloggers think too.

    Those little girls are darling and not a speck of Barbie pink to be seen. Yaay.

    Have you seen the french film The Man on the Train. There's a bit about ordering bread in it.

  10. Thanks so much for your wonderful blog which I have only just discovered. My husband and I will be going to Paris in early September. We're in our late sixties, so this may be our last trip - but at least we know the great spots to visit thanks to you. And I thought we knew Paris pretty well up to now!

  11. Did you notice that the person behind the stroller is wearing sneakers? Must be an American baby with that baguette!

  12. Oh my Goodness,
    you made my day (can you believe I actually typed "madness" instead of "day" - sheer madness, yes, and I love it that way!!!).
    I was giggling by the time I saw the picture of your favorite baguette, out their in the nude, on top of this adorable bag and before I could finish thinking the sentence - "I'd buy their bread just for this adorable bag... - there it was, you had written it already! *giggle*
    I am so grateful you went to Paris,
    taking us along for the plaisir,
    merci beaucoup! :-)

    Regarding breaking off of bread in France:
    Do the French also soak up sauces with a piece of bread? Italians do, albeit not officially.

  13. @ T.L.:
    Leftover baguette tastes wonderful in Tuscan Bread Soups, either the Pappa Al Pomodoro with tomatoes or the famous "Ribollita", twice-cooked bean soup. The (American) Saveur Magazine has good recipes online.

    In the summer, when I don't have time to cook, I simply cut the bread into cubes and toss it with cubes of tomatoes, vergin olive oil, salt and lots of fresh basil leaves (use you hands to get a good amalgam!). If you want to make it special, toss the bread cubes in a hot pan until it turns golden. Very brave girls add garlic. Tastes also good with fresh mozzarella.

    Please forgive me, Carol,
    for this foray into Italian food.
    What do the French do with their leftover baguettes?

  14. enjoyed the bread post...
    the fact they place the bread on the table bothers me a bit.
    i like cutting the stale/old bread into cubes and making croutons for salads and/or for the bird feeders.
    hope you are having a most wonderful time.

  15. Wonderful post today. I love photo of the two little girls standing at the street with their backs to us. Look how Very Chic they are already dressed in boots and coats and hair all styled. . . With their baguette.
    I loved seeing inside the Bakery too. Cant spell the Parisian word. Thanks for the tips for an American in Paris to act. :)

  16. great post, made me smile.

    i'm asian and always found it strange the way the french carry their naked baguettes all over town!!

  17. I love the way you started out with that classic photo.

  18. I have been looking for comfortable shoes that would look European, at the very least, knowing that feminine comfort and Paris don't go together. Take pictures of your shoes so we can see how you disguise being an American.

  19. Delicious breakfast! I will practice this in my home town... line, check... naked bread, check... straight legged, check... nine yards but no hat, check... shoes, check... dog, check. Gotcha. Merci

  20. In msia we call this roti bangali

  21. I can't agree more to your discovery, especially about naked baguette - sometimes they carry both baguette and doggies under their arms... their doggies are actually stepping on what their masters' going to eat!

  22. No problem about shoes,scarves and no hat, I'm Italian and we behave much the same unless it is freezing cold. I never wear sneakers unless I'm running!
    French people use stale bread for the Onion soup and for Pain Perdu, which is a sweet made with pain de campagne 2/3 days old. In Italy we also prepare panzanella which is a salad and bread pudding with raisins and pinenuts. They are all delicious, you should have a try

  23. When I boarded the plane last week at from Paris to the U.S. there was a little boy screaming. When I asked his mom if he could have a cookie to make him happy, she told me that he was crying because there were no baguettes. He wanted his morning baguette! Too Cute!

  24. Nancy in Savannah2:12 PM

    1) Notice that the two little French girls have les cheveux parfaits! Chic little haircuts, the likes of which I didn't catch on to until I was in my 20s.

    2) I noticed in my two years in Paris that more and more bakeries were advertising (le menu) their breads and also were having a specialite de maison, such as a whole grain baguette.

    3) If you read up on your Emily Post you will find that at the most formal meals there is never a bread plate; the bread is placed on the table cloth. And one never asks for butter if it is not visible.

    This from your faithful correspondent in Savannah, where these things still matter!

    Actually, I've noticed many "French" habits to be what was once expected in the US, but which has been forgotten. The only big difference is about the hands/wrists on the table, never in the lap, and of course, that left hand on the fork at all times.

  25. Karine2:13 PM

    This was your best blog ever!
    Les regles are a must read!!!

  26. The classic boy with bread I know is the Italian one with the plucky little pugnacious boy.

  27. FoodWalker2:16 PM

    It's a shame, but in Maury, the bread is not that good. However there is delicious bread just down the road toward Perpignan that has an enormous wood-fired oven and is open from 6am until 8 pm

  28. Laurie2:18 PM

    I just love this one!
    Your comments are spot on.
    What joy you bring to those or us who have left our hearts in France.

  29. Sophia4:33 PM

    I just read about this place in Paris Notes:
    133 rue de Turenne, 3rd--11 am to 11 pm. Salon de the and upstairs you can watch him make chocolates.
    Just a thought!

  30. I'm laughing at your rules, Carol. Those two girls in the beginning of your post are so sweet. How well dressed they are and how attractive. I love French baguettes--used to make my own a lot. I have those curved "w" pans and I'd sprinkle butter and then dust corn meal on them. They made 4 loaves, and we'd eat 'em immediately--they were delicious with butter slathered on them. Man, I could have gained a million pounds.

  31. This comment has been removed by the author.

  32. I have to tell you that I love your blog. I absolutely LOVE PARIS!!!! This post made me remember when I was in Paris 1 and 1/2 year ago. I saw this man running his groceries through the cashier and his bread was completely naked. I loved it!!!

    Thanks for your nice posts.


  33. You seem to capture every aspect of Paris~ it is so amazing what your photos reveal.....I continue to adore your posts and Paris!

  34. Anonymous12:00 AM

    I thought "converse" sneakers were the only brand worn in Paris, but maybe not so much now.

  35. I love your blog, Carol!

  36. Horrors! Exposed bread waltzing all over the streets and then BEING PUT ON THE TABLE TOP! Thank heaven THAT will NEVER take hold in the land of HAND SANITIZER, SCRUBBING BUBBLES and LYSOL. Why, I bet in the not-too-distant past, those Frenchies didn't even wrap the hand-holding part of the bread. Wonderful investigative journalism!! You deserve the Edward R. Murrow Award!

  37. How chic are those kids? My sister used to get to carry the bread as he was the eldest but I had a way of ducking under it and pinching the crust from the bottom.

  38. awesome post Carol! I think the "nakedness" is why Parisian bread tastes so much better - the pollution and street air must be doing something right!

  39. Never in a million years would I have known to put the bread right on the table... in France OR in America... I am amazed!

  40. jessica caffe11:23 PM

    hahaha Carol it's so true the snickers ... in fact here at Disney Hotel , we know people by the SHOES... italian, american, south american, portuguese...etc ..its crazy... but so true! and for me , when I wake up in the morning to go to the BOULANGERIE to buy my baguette and just eat the top (yes u forgot frenchies eat just the top before enter home)and always with my frenchie dog LOLA (who can't enter 'la pauvre' I felt just like a Parisian... 5 years here and my long brazilian hair is gone (yes now is a chanel cut of hair) and a lot of litle things we do like french people... love the way of frenchies do!!! =) million kisses

    1. Wish I had a Chanel haircut and a Lola!!merci Jessica


Love hearing from you