Thursday 29 January 2009
* A BAGUETTE IS MUCH MORE THAN A LOAF OF BREAD
Above: THE VIEW FROM RAY'S STUDIO, WITH THE BAKER'S BUILDING OPPOSITE
It does not take long for Anglo Saxons who live in France to realise that the French have a unique attitude towards bread. And in no time at all we all succumb to French ways.
Even buying bread in France can offer a bewildering feast of options for foreigners. What to choose is always a problem. Baguette, ficelle, flute, batard or one of the many other wonderful French breads? All are different, all are wonderful. Needless to say, the pastries and croissants are to die for, and choosing only one each is often the biggest problem of the day.
When we lived in Australia, I probably had one or two slices of bread per week, but here in France we have a fresh baguette with every meal. And there’s always a crisis at noon when the siren goes off, if we’ve forgotten to get our lunchtime bread. Someone has to hare off to the bakery and join the queue of French people who have also almost forgotten their fresh supply of the “staff of life” for their midday meal.
In fact, the idea of keeping bread is almost foreign to the French, and even small villages often have several bakers to choose from – here in Mezin we have four.
From my studio on the third floor (above) you can look out over the baker’s rooftop towards the 12 th century church of St Jean Baptiste at the heart of the village. This view of the bell tower and the Renaissance bakery has fascinated me since we bought the house ten years ago, and I’ve done several studies of the bakery and the church. In one, the baker himself dozes outside his front door as he waits for his bread to rise. In another he’s seen carrying the fresh baguettes up the street to the baker shop. In a third a customer waits patiently for his loaf.
One of these paintings was bought by a couple from Hong Kong. Julian and Karen live in one of the towers high up on Victoria Peak on the Island. This means that when they sit in their lounge, not only do they look out across the bay towards Kowloon, but on their walls they can look across the rooftops to the medieval church of St Jean-Baptiste in Mezin, France.
Posted by Ray Johnstone at 18:41