French foods – warning, do not read if you are hungry

(Written by Dave)

WARNING:  Do not read this if you are on a diet or are hungry.

DISCLAIMER:  Falling behind on my French study has led me to blatantly use this blog as a way of catching back up – presenting an unfortunate risk to the cholesterol levels of our readers– for that I apologise in advance.

Ok, with that out of the way, let’s get on with the blog.  We had an exam in our French class on Friday.  Our instructor showed photos from various items from French stores.  We were supposed to write the names of the items in French.  While we have enjoyed having visitors for much of the month of January, this meant I didn’t study my vocabulary enough.  I fared particularly poorly on items from French bakeries.  So this weekend, we visited a number of the bakeries in our neighbourhood, took photos of lots of very tasty treats and I’m now going to document them here (complete with the photos below).  It may help my vocabulary (we can only hope).  Note I cannot get the French accents to appear in the photo captions so some are not technically spelled correctly without the right accents.

First off you should know that all French nouns are either masculine or feminine.  You can’t tell the gender by the type of noun, you just have to memorise the gender with each word.  Great, spelling never was my strong suit, now along with goofy French use of extra vowels and accented letters, I also get to memorise gender.  I won’t bore everyone here with the gender of each noun we discovered today, just know that the (f/m) in the photo name is the gender of the particular noun and I am working hard to remember each one.

Second, it seems that most bakeries have branched out into “special” recipes, perhaps as a way to differentiate themselves.  This means that we found a few items that we couldn’t look up in our dictionary.  For example, we found both baguettes and banettes, often sold side by side.  Turns out that “banette” is a registered trademark for a specific dough product, guaranteed to produce the same type of bread every time – not just bread that has pointy ends, as we originally thought (though most of the bread loaves sold under this name do have pointy ends).  Meanwhile, a baguette is the generic word for any bread that fits the general shape of a slender loaf of bread.  We also discovered that many bakeries make up their own names for the pastries they sell – probably great if you are trying to differentiate yourself from the numerous other bakeries nearby.  Not so great for me when I’m trying to learn French and the neighbourhood baker can willy-nilly invent new words.  Oh well, I like the banettes and the other new “local” treats merit further taste testing so it’s not all bad.

Officially, a bakery is called a boulangerie.  Strictly speaking, they are supposed to make bread and croissants, leaving pastries and cakes up to the patisseries.  A baker is known as a boulanger – so at least that makes sense.  Some of the boulangeries go into pastries without adding this to their signage.  Others go whole hog, claiming both boulangerie and patisserie.  Even the super markets sell baguettes so it would seem that everyone is broadening their product lines in order to be able to sell more to each customer.

The breads here are great.  The basic baguette is a great treat.  It is designed to last one day, containing no preservative and costing little enough that everyone can afford a new one tomorrow.  Most bakeries also have fancy whole grain and nut breads.  These cost quite a bit more but seem to last longer as well.  You can get the bread sliced or take it whole.  Bakeries slice the bread on demand when you make a purchase if you want it sliced.  The bakery near our house sells a massive loaf of raisin/nut bread where you can by anything from an inch to multiple inches, all cut off the end of the bread as per your request.  We stop by several times a week to keep up our raisin bread supply.

Croissants and rolls are just as good as the bread, especially croissants that are still warm.  We tried a few croissants today in our survey, mostly so that we didn’t feel too bad taking all the photos (or it could have been because they looked so good).  One bakery had a pretty good line out in front so we joined up to have a look.  Their croissants were very good and worth the wait.  Unfortunately they do not last long once you start to eat them…

Nancy’s favourite from the patisserie is the palmier.  Palmiers are made from puff pastry with lots of butter and sugar.  They are flaky like croissants and very light and tend to disappear before you notice that you have eaten the whole thing.  Not all bakeries sell these, and not even all the patisseries for that matter.  Some of them are better than others as freshness is important.  While we really do enjoy our visits buying fresh bread, when everything is unpackaged we never know how old things are.  There is no use by date stamped on the items in the shop.  But honestly, this has not been a big problem; everything seems to be very fresh most of the time.  Most of it never lasts long enough at home to go bad – especially the palmiers.

Phew, I’m hungry.  Thanks for reading.  I can spell a few more French words correctly now.  Next up, we’ll visit the French deli – the charcuterie.  Here is where you get jamon, salami and a few other things on my vocabulary list that I can’t remember.

PS: Mats and my mother have returned to the US.  We really enjoyed having them here.  You may have read about the cold wave hitting Europe recently.  Nice has been exceptionally cold for this time of year, down below zero Celsius.  Unfortunately, this has limited my underwear-only apartment wandering… We are hoping it will warm up significantly before we head off at the beginning of March or we will need to look for some more warm clothes!

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17 thoughts on “French foods – warning, do not read if you are hungry

  1. Wow, what tasty items you have in the shops. I can imagine starting my day with coffee and a visit to those shops. Perhaps baking classes would be of more use (at least to your friends) that language classes.

  2. Hi guys , nice one Dave blame your visitors for jigging school …… And after all them photos I think I know which are the masculine breads…. : -)

  3. Dave & Nancy: Beauitful pasteries and breads and the French aren’t fat. I know they ride their bikes and walk!!
    I know Mats have a ball with you in France, skiing the Alps, he’ll hae lots to tell friends back at C of I.
    Have fun — luck with the French. Love Dody Hart (Mats Granma ).

  4. Yum Yum. Looking forward to more French foodie pics from the stores and restaurants. How long before you’ll be rolling your bikes into Germany for another gastronomical experience? I’m sure to be downing some of those same pastries along with a Big American Breakfast washed down with Miller Beers and coffees at TGI Fridays in the newly opened shopping mall down the road > while watching 06:00 hrs tomorrow’s Super Bowl, Go Giants!? (only because they knocked the Packers out of contention)

  5. Everything looks great! Are you doing any bike riding? How do you burn off all those delightful looking goodies??? We are experiencing a very warm winter and I am loving it…rode my bike to lunch last week in a sweatshirt! Looking forward to more foodie entries…

  6. I think this is the longest you have gone without a post. Crackin’ those books? Tired of posting? Hunkered down in that hour of sunshine that gets in the apartment? Are you okay?

    • Sorry, we have been a bit delinquent in getting a post done – swamped by French class! You have to study more when you are over 50 to get things to stick in your brain, you know… And yes, perhaps a bit of carbohydrate coma as well! We will try to be better. Nancy


  7. I don’t know if it is being over 50 or if it is getting out of practice on memorization. School children are forced to do a lot of memorization (multiplication tables, vocabulary, spelling, etc.) and they get good at it.

    Thank god I don’t have to memorize much any more. It’s a dreary task. I have become a master of looking things up and knowing how to look for them. Hardly an hour goes by when I am not looking something up, usually on the web. I LOVE the internet.

  8. Zo, dat ziet er erg lekker uit. Geen straf om in Frankrijk te zijn. Hier veel sneeuw en ijs. Hans heeft geschaatst. Ik nog niet. Last van een ontsteking in mijn heup. Ski vakantie geboekt in Frankrijk Flaine, Grand Massief. We zijn daat 10 maart tot en met 17 maart.
    We wensen jullie veel plezier.
    Lieneke en Hans

    • Nice to hear from friend from the road!
      tot ziens!

      Translated to English…
      So, that looks really yummy. No punishment in France. Here a lot of snow and ice. Hans has skated. I have not. Suffer from an inflammation in my hip. Ski holidays in France booked Flaine, Grand Massif. We are mandate 10 March to 17 March. We hope you enjoy. Greetings, and Hans Lieneke

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