Monday 6 December 2010

où est le pain ?

Living in France for 5 years now, bread is one thing that is taken for granted. We pop to the Boulanger every morning and pick up a crusty French loaf that has been baked on the premises that day and still warm. We generally don’t eat the whole loaf fresh and the remainder of it is either blended up for bread-crumbs or fed to the animals. We have a couple of bird tables, 3 sheep and a pond full of hungry fish so it always gets used. Everybody in France does the same.
In contrast, the UK has one of the lowest bread consumptions in Europe. By comparison the bread here is awful at the very best of times, all pre-packed, already a few days old and tasteless. It goes stale after about 10 minutes if not kept in a plastic bag and turns to mush if frozen and defrosted. Yes, it makes good toast and is it ‘easy’ to construct a sandwich from it, in the same way that it is ‘easy’ to make gravy from granules or bolognaise from a jar. British people rarely eat bread with their meals and in my experience most keep commit the unforgivable sin of keeping it in the fridge so a whole loaf can last a week. By this definition, the British nation does not love bread.
So why, oh why, oh why is it that as soon as a little bit of snow comes around, every British person rushes to the shop and buys 5 loaves and a dozen bread rolls? It amazes me.
Do they suddenly get the urge to eat toast? Or make a bread and butter pudding and a dozen rounds of sandwiches? Are they perplexed at the thought of not being able to make a sandwich for at least a day until the next delivery gets through the snow, despite having a cupboard full of pot-noodles as backup.
What is wrong with people? It’s not just bread either, they rush out and buy milk by the tanker load and enough fresh vegetables to accompany 20 Sunday roasts. Didn’t they go shopping last week? Why cant people organise themselves to shop for groceries once a week? At the very worst, in the most rural of areas, villages may be cut off for up to 3 days. In towns, more realistically it could be one day at the absolute most. Thirty years ago, before we all had freezers then shopping only once a week may have been a little harder. But nowadays, surely we can survive for a day.
As the snow falls in this remote village for the second time in a week, I was the fool who didn’t buy 10 loaves last week and now I have to visit an empty shop in despair. The lady apologises and says that they still haven’t managed to catch up with supplies after last week’s panic buying. Maybe I can buy some on ebay? Otherwise, I will just have to eat cake!

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