That is a bold-faced lie. I love bagels. It used to be my breakfast of choice when I lived back in the US of A. I'd put my frozen Lender's bagel in the toaster oven and afterwards spread some margarine on it, sit back on the couch and watch the Today show. Man, I miss Ann Curry*. Sometimes I'd add a fruit yogurt to my breakfast, along with juice.
But when I arrived in France I saw just how important (read: obsessed) the French are with bread. Though you will of course find those who eat cereal and yogurt, the vast majority seem to prefer their hunk of baguette and a bowl of hot chocolate (or a cup of coffee). And although some will buy "industrial" bread that stays good for a while and is pre-sliced, most folks like to buy their bread fresh out of the oven from their local bakery or from the bakery section of the supermarket.
That image of the Frenchman (in a beret!), riding a bike with baguettes under his arm is not far from the truth. And I have actually seen people doing that on more than one occasion (ok, minus the beret). On the TV news here they often refer to the price of a baguette to indicate that flour prices are rising, and it is such a basic staple for the French meal.
Most French people or those who happen to be living in France like myself, have a mental conversation in their heads around 4 p.m. For me, it goes something like this:
Hmm, do we have any more bread at home? Maybe a few slices, but they're a bit stale. Ok, when can I stop by the bakery? Darn, it's closed on Wednesday. Oh, I'll just pick something up at the corner store. Or I've got those pre-cooked ones in the cupboard that I can pop in the oven in the morning. Phew, we're saved...But I still miss Ann Curry.
Purists like my parents-in-law would never dream of buying the pre-cooked demi-baguettes (half-sized). They have recently had to adapt their bread-eating habits since the bakery in their village closed and the baker who used to deliver to their house stopped doing so. Now they ask Remi to pick bread up on the way or have to get some when they drive to the supermarket three villages away.
I, however, am covered up with bread possibilities in my little metropolitain area. There are bakeries in every neighborhood, supermarkets galore and even bread from the frozen foods store that I can let defrost in my fridge. But, to be honest, the bread from the real bakers is the best, and there is something about a chunk or slice of fresh bread that is still slightly warm and lightly crusty...
Here is the low-down on the bread types in my part of France...
When you go to the bakery, the first thing is to decide what kind of bread you want. The choices can be confusing!
My favorite is the pain de campagne, a kind of half-whole wheat one. I generally buy it sliced (coupé), and at a bakery they will cut it for you.
So the conversation would go something like this:
Me: Bonjour (ah, don't forget that or they'll see straight away you're an eager tourist!).
Je voudrais un pain de campagne coupé, s'il vous plaît. (Hello, I'd like some "country-style" bread, please.)
Baker: C'est tout? (That's all?)
Me: Oui, merci. (Yes, thanks.)
There is also the pain complet, more like a wholeweat.
But the one that seems to sell the best is of course the traditional baguette.
Do not mistake brioche for bread. Brioche is a very buttery version of bread that is often eaten as a dessert (though you can eat it for breakfast, too). Let's say it's more of a Sunday breakfast thing, just as we Americans might not have bacon and eggs every day.
not cake, that Marie-Antoinette suggested the peasants eat (since they didn't have any bread, it does seem logical that brioche is an option). Gotta love the girl for trying.
It all just goes to show that the French have been thinking about breakfast for literally centuries.
So what is your breakfast of choice and how do they feel about bread in your location? Do you come from a "white breaded world" (you uptown girl, you). "Never was a cornflake girl" myself. And I've never had "kippers for breakfast." (Bonus points if you can identify those references.)
*Ann Curry is a supercool American journalist who was on the Today show for years. She kind of got ousted or put to the side in the past few years. She's got more elegance in her little finger than most people do in their whole body.