Today was a nice and easy-going day at the Easy French Immersion School. It was still challenging and we learnt a lot of French but some of the topics were a bit lighter today. Earlier this week in my intensive French course for adults we had discussed and debated some pretty heady topics like the education system and over-pricing of feminine products. They were great topics to work on and it was great to discover everyone’s different points of view but after several days of these sorts of topics something a bit softer was welcome. It certainly was a softer subject today as we were discussing the culture behind the French baguette! I couldn’t actually believe it when our professor, Claire, handed out the documents on the subject, it’s quintessential French culture and I love them. The texture and flavour are wonderful but I also just love the ritual of going into a boulangerie in the morning, seeing all of the fresh pastries and cakes all neatly arranged and smelling the next batches baking away in the kitchen.
Back to my French language lesson and Claire played us a video which was one of the ‘petite histoire’ collection on TV5 Monde. This website has been a constant help to me throughout my time learning French in France, if you haven’t discovered it yet go and check it out now, they have exercises for all levels from A1 to C1 and they are always connected to current topics and real-world issues. It’s an information protein-shake for learning athletes and will enlighten you to so many things both about learning the French language and culture but also about the world in general.
Running for a Baguette at the Pause of my French Lesson
This clip though was about one thing and one thing only: the baguette. We watched the video the first time and it was a little easier to follow than the ones we had done earlier in the week on the more controversial topics but there was still plenty of new vocabulary to sink our teeth into. We learned a lot of the words involved in baking of course but also some of the more general terms you’re likely to hear when discussing cooking like the verbs involved or the adjectives you might use when describing food. I love to cook and have been doing some with my French host family so I was furiously writing down every word to use in our next session. I also am extremely fond of hearing French people, particularly professional chefs, discuss cooking. There is some elegant blend of the enthusiasm the pros have for their work combined with the French language that combine to intensify the poetry of the language. There was one such professional in the video we were watching in our intensive French lesson and boy was he passionate, with his physical gestures and the way he softened or deepened his voice to add emphasis to whatever he was describing he really got me excited about the humble baguette.
Although humble might not be the right word as we learnt that the white baguette was originally a signifier of wealth, beauty, purity and the general highness of someone’s social class. Apparently in the 18th century the baguette was eaten primarily by the rich whilst the general population ate a harder denser type. Eventually however the fine baguette became available to the masses and therein lies a problem in the eyes of a historian that featured on the video; industrial bread. He denounced the mass-produced supermarket bread in favour of the artisanal fresh types that can be found at the smaller bakeries around France.
He certainly convinced me and at the pause of our intensive French immersion lesson I quickly scurried down to an amazing bakery at the end of the street, grabbed a ‘baguette rustique’ and rushed back to the Easy French School in Montpellier. After watching all the clips of bread baking and being sensually crafted I felt like I had the most appreciation I ever had for a baguette since I came to Montpellier to learn French. Check out the video and see if you feel the same!