One photo a day until I meet Jonathan Harris

13th May

La fête du pain.

A couple of years ago someone asked me what I liked most about France. Grappling for a coherent answer amongst all the competing responses I jumped on the first one that seemed reasonable. Hesitantly I replied "Well, there's the bread."

The person's subsequent raucous laughter after this seemingly banal reply made me regret that I didn't come up with something more poetic. But thinking back to it now, I'm not so ashamed.

Admittedly it was at the height of my love affair with the bread from my local baker, Christian Vabret. At that time I was so fond his bageutte de tradition, I even had him autograph a postcard for me. The postcard is now stuck to my wall and each time I read what he wrote ("... un souvenir de Paris et du BON PAIN") I think back to the simple response I made to that difficult question.

Today however I was reminded of that story for another reason. Outside the grand church on another grey day I stumbled upon La Fête du Pain.

All the metiers surrounding bread and baking were on display and the place was full of bustling boulangers who were all busy churning out an incredible array of pastry delights. Not only did I learn about how my beloved baguettes were made, but I discovered the story of the other ingredients essential to the operation of a boulangerie. These read like a list of the other things I most like about France: butter, milk, cheese and sugar.*

I was surprised to learn that this last one (a very personal favourite - all praise the sugarlord!), is actually grown and manufactured in France via the Sugar Beet. Particularly charming was a poster depicting the history of French sugar production. It included a small picture showing a modern satellite guided tractor. I marvelled at the knack the French seem to have for humanising even the most alarming of our technological advances.

As the bakers continued their work, the sun showed no sign of breaking through the thick grey clouds. Although I might not be able to count weather among them, I was happy to realise that there are quite a few other things besides the bread that I most like about France.