There are many things I love about France. The first time I visited France, I was 18 years old and came over with my local high school French Club (anybody remember Richard Greco in If Looks Could Kill?) on a trip in which I led planning efforts. I was President of the French Club that year and I organized spaghetti dinners, raffles and other fund raising events to be sure we had as much money as possible to get across the pond. The benefit of being president was that I got to guide the club as to which trip we would take. I looked at that beautiful brochure of all of the amazing places we could go. I knew I wanted to go to Paris and Nice. Plus I wanted to take the train a grande vitesse (or TGV or bullet train). What 18 year old kid doesn’t want to go hurtling across the French country side at over 300 km/hr (over 200 miles per hour)?
Besides the excitement of speed and the bustling beauty of Paris, I found I really liked French life. Everyday, we had organized tours and dinners but we were free to explore for breakfast and lunch. As a kid who has always loved bread (hello, who needs turkey at Thanksgiving when there are still more rolls), I found it incredible that you could get fresh bread every day on every street in Paris. Not only that, in the afternoons, the street vendors would be selling crêpes stuffed with chantilly (whipped creme) and Nutella (something I had not had up to that point). It was the way I loved to eat. We left Paris and headed down to Montpellier for a stop before continuing on to Nice. As I mentioned in one of my first posts, I fell in love with Montpellier and vowed to return some day. It was where I had originally hoped to be during this stay in Bordeaux.
Every couple of blocks in any French city (like Bordeaux or Montpellier) you will find a boulangerie (bakery) and they are incredible. You can get baguettes and so much more. They have breads and croissants filled with chocolate, fruit, jam and other delicious items. Each one has its own flare and identity. From Arromanches to Arles, local boulangers (bakers) have always helped me identify new types of baked goods to try and they are so inexpensive. Less than one euro for a loaf of bread.
Well my local boulanger in Bordeaux has actually lived in Alabama. My husband and I travel outside of the US a good bit and it is rare to find someone who has heard of Alabama let alone knows where it is. When people ask where I live in the United States, I usually say I am from Atlanta because it is the closest big city and it is only 2 hours away. Even then I usually get a lot of blank stares. So here I am in Bordeaux and the person who makes my favorite, delicious bread every day has lived in my home state as an exchange student when he was a kid.
Beyond having lived in Alabama, my local boulanger is a nutrition aficionado. He asked me why I was in Bordeaux, to which I explained I was doing nutrition research for the University of Bordeaux. He laughed and said that must be why I ordered a pain complet (whole grain bread) because only people who study nutrition or need fiber for bathroom purposes would order whole grain bread. He seemed relieved that I study nutrition which meant I didn’t need it for the other reason. I then had the most amazing conversation with him about the farmers who supply him with the grains he uses to make his breads. He knows them all and has detailed knowledge about how they grow their grains.
Instead of the pain complet, he recommended a bread made from ancient grains that I of course tried and loved. He makes it in a giant loaf (about 18 inches long and 9 inches wide) and slices me off a 2-3 inch piece to eat for the day. I have a couple of slices for breakfast with tart cherry jam and coffee and have the rest with my dinner. My husband and son do not love whole grain bread and the good news is that the boulanger has other fabulous white breads for them too. I love this part of my routine!