baker with racks of freahly baked French bread

image: baker in rural French bakery, excerpt from photo in today's linked article

|| 14 November 2019

Must Read French Bread Article

Always difficult to explain to people who have not lived in France — or who are not familiar with French culture — the importance of bread in French life.

A recent New York Times article focusing on the closing of the traditional boulangeries in small towns and villages all over France explains how the loss of these bread bakeries is destroying community life in those locations where residents cannot go daily to buy their bread and meet and exchange news and conversation.

Numerous photos which accompany this article add a rich dimension to the text. I was so impressed with the wealth of information about France and French life in those photos that I made it a point to learn something about the photographer Kasia Strek.

I discovered that Kasia Strek is a Polish professional photographer who works in both France and Poland. Studies at l'Academie des Beaux-Arts led her to concentrate on photography. She continued her studies in documentary photography at the Queensland College of Art in Brisbane, Australia.

The look of despair in the eyes of the baker in one of the article’s photos captures the bleakness of the outlook for traditional boulangeries in rural areas of France.

The image of the group of concerned citizens around the dining room table gives an insight into small town family life. Pile of unfolded laundry in the background, cat striding across the kitchen with its cluttered cabinets, cellphones visible on the plastic cloth of the dining table.

The text of the article by Norimitsu Onishi, Paris correspondent for The New York Times, also paints an excellent portrait of the situation in rural France and how residents are coping with the absence of the traditional bakery — and in some cases trying to establish a new bakery to replace the lost one. The article quotes one resident who points out that many French see the local availability of freshly-baked bread as a service that should be provided by the local government — like refuse collection and road maintenance.

In previous Nouvelles, we have looked at a new phenomenon in France: baguette vending machines. These seek to bring freshly-baked bread to those in rural areas who have lost their traditional bakeries.

It should be noted that the bread sold in these machines is made in a traditional bakery, the quality is excellent. The freshly-baked bread is transported to the machine and residents can purchase it there rather than make a drive, sometimes of considerable distance, to the nearest boulangerie. Note too in the photo of one of these baguette vending machines that next to it is a stall where a maraîcher, a grower of vegetables, sells his produce. To the left of the baguette vending machine is a yellow box on a pole that appears to be the money box for the newspaper container at its side.

In a later photo in the article, you can see the interior of an epicerie, a small French grocery store. In a town that no longer has a boulangerie. this shop has now added freshly-baked bread to its merchandise.

Read the article about Rural French Bakeries Closing in the NY Times

be chic, stay slim — Anne Barone