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Posts tagged ‘boulangerie’

Rue des Boulangers, or Paris I Love You, but You’re Making Me Fat


I am happily installed in the same cozy, shabby chic apartment on rue des Boulangers that I stayed in during my fall visit to Paris. I am thankful that it was available again, as it feels even more like a homecoming, and I am finding out I adore this part of the 5eme arrondissement. It is easy to escape the crowds by slipping through the huge blue door leading to my cobbled courtyard surrounded by trees. I am always amazed by these get-away-from-it-all shared gardens you find in Paris, these tranquil hidden gems.

In 1844 this short horseshoe lane cloaked with bakeries became known as rue des Boulangers. I imagine the clay chimney pipes blistering with the hungry smells of freshly baked bread and golden croissants. It must have been a happy rue as a French friend recently told me that the aroma of fresh-baked bread not only makes your mouth water, but has also been proven to make you a kinder more contented person.

Nowadays there is only one boulangerie at the bottom of the horseshoe lane, possibly explaining my cranky next-door neighbor.

Still, there are at least five fabulous boulangeries within a 5-minute walk of my flat. Maybe it is the distance and time away in the States, or the processed, over-baked carbohydrate batons they sell in my small town; certainly it’s the lack of creamy French butter added to the mix, and the plastic-like crescents sold in flimsy plastic boxes, but I honestly have no desire to eat bread back home. The shadow of bread, the ghosts of Paris past, it has no appeal at all.

Mais, here is the land of artisanal bakers, the still enforced Napoleonic decrees requiring specific ingredients, quality control for flour milling and dough kneading, and the perfectly established shape and sizes for baguettes and croissants, make it impossible for me to say, “No!” I am far less satisfied with taking pictures of their edible art this time around, and much more eager to take one (or two) masterpieces along with me on a grey-skied stroll through my lovely Par-ee.


No. 138: Brioche: Let them Eat Cake

Qu’ils mangent de la brioche,” or the most common English translation: “Let them eat cake,” was supposedly uttered by Marie Antoinette, wife to King Louis XVI, the last, and possibly most extravagant queen of France. The story goes that upon hearing that her people were enduring difficult times and ongoing bread shortages, she proclaimed, “Then let them eat brioche.”

qu'ils mangent de la brioche...let them eat brioche…

qu’ils mangent de la brioche…let them eat brioche…

As brioche is made from sweeter dough enhanced with butter, eggs, and sugar (limited and luxurious ingredients at the time), brioche was even more out of the reach of the peasants than bread. This declaration was said to reflect the Queen’s obliviousness to the shocking condition of her people, and in the end contributed to her losing her head by guillotine.

source: Kirsten Dunst in “Marie Antoinette,” directed by Sofia Coppola, NYT

source: Kirsten Dunst in “Marie Antoinette,” directed by Sofia Coppola, NYT

Well it turns out there is no evidence that the Queen ever uttered these words et en fait this anecdote was never cited by opponents of the monarchy at the time of the French Revolution. Jean-Jacques Rousseau, political philosopher and composer, more likely wrote it when Marie Antoinette was a young child living in Austria. But even before Rousseau’s writings, it was attributed to Queen Marie-Thérèse the wife of Louis XIV, a hundred years earlier. And way before that, Chinese scholars claim that the phrase originated with an ancient Chinese emperor who, altogether unsympathetic to the fact that his subjects had no rice to eat, said, “Why don’t they eat meat?

Regardless of who did or didn’t say this, or who, unfortunately, lost their head and who didn’t, I have recently been introduced to this slightly sweet, funny-shaped, golden, eggy morning staple, and I can confirm that when I have a choice, I would rather eat brioche than bread, at least for breakfast. And these days, une petite brioche et un petit pain à Paris are each 1€ apiece, so on rare occasions, I let myself eat both.

petite brioche et petit pain

petite brioche et petit pain

Click here for a yummy airy brioche recipe from Fine Cooking. Best served with strawberry jam, lemon curd, or caramel à la fleur de sel.



caramel à la fleur de sel: salted caramel

et en fait : and in fact

Qu’ils mangent de la brioche. Let them eat brioche.

une petite brioche et un petit pain à Paris… a small brioche or small roll in Paris…

No. 108: Idioms from the Bakery


Bread. Glorious bread…

One of the many things France does right is bread. There are so many different types of bread to choose from in the boulangeries, it can get overwhelming at times. I had planned to do an extensive homage to bread this month, mais malheureusement, je suis au régime, and bread is one of my biggest weaknesses.

Donc, you will have to settle today for what I hope will be fun: idioms from the bakery or idiomes de pain.

Now, the first thing to know about bread is the French word for it: pain. No it is not p-a-i-n, as in agony, affliction, grief, heartache, and misery, but pain as in let’s-mix-some-flour-yeast-and-water-together-and-get-baking, and rather “Frenchily” pronounced: “pehn”.

One of my favorites expressions with “pain” which I hear the little boys shouting in my apartment corridors: Je vais au pain! Literally: I go to the bread, but meaning: I’m going to get the bread!

And we all need to get the bread. Bread is life, bread is sustenance, and bread is also clever when in the mouths of the French. Come have a taste.

Some happy exclamations:

C’est pain bénit! (This is blessed bread.) It’s a godsend!

Bon comme (du) bon pain! (Good like good bread) Extremely good!

Nul pain sans peine! (No bread without penalty) No pain, no gain!

A tragic saying:

If my father-in-law is a plus de la moitié de son pain cuit (his bread is more than more than half baked), sadly he won’t live long.

Are you a worrier?

Don’t tell your mother you’re avoir peur de manquer de pain (fear running out of bread) worried about the future.

Regarding money:

If your son has a job, he gagne son pain (earns his bread), make his living.

If you are a good bargain hunter, you can pick up something pour une bouchée de pain (for a mouthful of bread) cheap, or for a song.

If you are a lousy bargain hunter, you manger un pain trempé de larmes (eat bread soaked in tears), pay a lot for something.

If your product se vendre comme des petits pains (sell like rolls), it’s selling like hotcakes.

It’s bad if you être à l’eau et au pain sec (to be given only water and bread) because you are bankrupt.

Regarding work:

If you avoir du pain sur la planche (have bread on the board), you have a lot on your plate.

Looking for a doughy insult? Try these:

If somebody vendre son pain avant qu’il ne soit cuit (sell his bread before it is baked), they are a bit presumptuous or in American-speak, they “count their chickens before they’ve hatched.”

If your brother ne vaut pas le pain qu’il mange (doesn’t want the bread he eats), he is lazy.

If someone or something is à la mie de pain (the breadcrumbs), they are worthless, or unreliable.

If your friend mange son pain en son sac (eats his bread in his bag) he does it on the sly, and might not be trustworthy.

If your girlfriend pleure le pain qu’elle mange (cries the bread that she eats), she’s stingy.

Politicians may be accused of enlever à quelqu’un le pain de la bouche (take the bread from someone’s mouth) depriving someone of their livelihood.

If you savoir de quel côté son pain est beurré, (know which side your bread is buttered on), you are an opportunist.

Et enfin:

If you faire passer le goût du pain à quelqu’un (take away the taste of bread from somebody), you do them in, knock them off, or take them out, (kill them)…

…and then, I guess they are toast!




boulangeries: bakeries

donc: so, therefore

idiomes de pain: bread idioms

Je vais au pain! I’m going to get the bread!

mais malheureusement, je suis au régime: but unfortunately I’m on a diet.

pain: bread


With special thanks to my French teacher Nicolas and my classmates, and, please let us know where we went wrong.