Days numbered for the French and their genius bread?
Twice in the past year, Publisher Christine Hogan has found herself spending two weeks in the Cannes, in an apartment with breathtaking views of the Côte d’Azur and the Med. And a boulangerie just down the road!
Turning into a femme de foyer and going to the local boulangerie became a ritual part of the start of my every day life.
Cesarine, on the corner of Avenue Tristan Bernard and the Avenue de Lérins became my boulangerie of choice. I was in that neat little shop, with its delicious smells, every morning after my swim at Palm Beach around 8 am every morning.
Already there was always a small queue for the ficelles, baguettes, croissants full and half sized, pain au chocolat (full and half again) or chaussons aux pommes (apple turnover) as well as a vitrine full of other jewel-like cakes and pastries.
I could not get enough of Cesarine, although there were some other great boulangeries around. Among them were Pâtissier Giroux (21 Avenue de la Gare, 06220 Le Golfe Juan), Boulangerie Veziano in Cap Juan, just down the road, and a little further afield in Valluaris, Les Boulangeries de Soleil (62 Avenue Georges Clemenceau, but you cannot miss it as you drive up from Golfe Juan to the town.)
In Cannes itself, try LENÔTRE. It’s in Rue d’Antibes.
The bread culture of France is under threat
But in France, the local bakeries are a part of life which is increasingly under threat. Increased demand for gluten-free everything and the centralisation of baking has impacted dramatically on the bread culture of the country.
All across France, according to The New York Times, “the local boulangerie — the mom-and-pop shop that turns out classically crusty baguettes, eggy brioches, sturdy boules and croissants as light as air — has fallen into decline in recent decades as some people have adopted carbohydrate-free diets and others have grown accustomed to buying bread at supermarkets and convenience stores that make their own, using cheap ingredients.
“In the process, bread aficionados lament, the quality of the average loaf has plummeted, and many traditional bakeries have closed.
“To make matters worse, the mills that for years supplied flour to French bakers started becoming competitors in the 1990s, investing in chain bakeries that pump out pain quotidien on an industrial scale often using preformed frozen dough.”
This is a disturbing outcome. One day, I was caught up and couldn’t get down to the bakery. I picked up some bread in my local Carrefour instead. What a shocking mistake, one I was keen not to repeat.
That will happen more and more unless steps are taken. “The number of boulangeries in France dropped to 28,000 in 2015, from 37,800 just 20 years earlier. Alexander Goransson, the author of a 2014 report on bread in France and a lead analyst at Euromonitor, a research firm, said that rate has slowed during the past decade, although bakeries continue to close.”
Read: A Baker’s Crusade: Rescuing the Famed French Boulangerie (The New York Times)
Main image: Panoramio
Smaller images: Interior of Caesarine, author’s own