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Baguettiquette: Weird things the French do with bread

The Local France
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Baguettiquette: Weird things the French do with bread
This picture shows 'baguettes de tradidion' baked by Taieb Sahal at the 'Les saveurs de Pierre Demours' bakery in Paris on March 6, 2020 (Photo by Christophe ARCHAMBAULT / AFP)

The French do a lot of things that foreigners just don’t get, and some of their strangest habits have to do with their beloved baguette. We’ve compiled a list of the bizarre "baguettiquette", some of which we admit have won us over.

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The baguette is an unofficial symbol of France. (Although it should be an official one, no?) Think of your stereotypical and clichéd beret-wearing French person in a striped shirt, and you’ll certainly picture them holding a baguette. 

You can’t walk down the street in France without spotting a boulangerie and at least one French person with a fresh baguette stuck under their arm. 

The baguette is so important to the French way of life that there are competitions dedicated to finding the perfect baguette and even a “Bread Observatory” that keeps track of French bread consumption and encourages people to stop by the bakery every day. 

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Most foreigners love the idea of eating delicious fresh baguettes every day, even twice a day, but there are things the French do with them that we really don’t get. 

Here’s a roundup of the weird things you’ll see a French person do with a baguette.

Dip it in their tea or coffee

If you ever eat breakfast in a French person’s home, you’re sure to have seen them slathering a hunk of baguette with butter and jam and then dipping that whole mess directly into their tea or coffee. This usually prompts a look of dismay from non-Frenchies at the clumps of sugary fruit and crumbs left behind in their coffee.

Never put it on a plate

At your first French dinner party you were probably bewildered by the fact that French people never set the bread on their plate, but rather right next to it on the table. If you put a piece of baguette on your plate you will be committing a serious breach of baguettiquette and a major dough pas.

Clean their plates with it

Many French households will do without a dishwasher or even washing up liquid because they use baguettes to clean the plates. At the end of the meal they will rip off bits of bread to mop up any remainder of their meal, to the point where there's no trace of it left.  (Note: avoid this in formal settings unless you want to look like an uneducated savage.)

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Carry it under their armpit

Given the baguette’s rather unwieldy shape, it can be tricky to transport. But is the best way really to carry it under a sweaty armpit? Especially after a day in the office? We respectfully suggest this more hygienic alternative: the baguette bag. 

Put lumps of chocolate in it

For most foreigners chocolate and bread just don't go together unless Nutella is involved, but the French take it to a new level.

You can spot people, not just kids but fully-grown highly educated adults, sticking squares of Lindt or Milka chocolate into their baguette, creating a makeshift baguette au chocolate.

Nibble the end of it on the street

The French are typically scandalized by the idea of eating while walking, but for their beloved baguette, they make an exception. It’s apparently impossible for them to resist gnawing on the end of that warm, fresh baguette on the way home. 

Eat it with absolutely everything

Would you like some bread with your bread? In France, the answer is always oui. Even if you order a bread-based dish like a croque monsieur, you’ll get a little basket of sliced baguette to accompany it. Having said that of course, we'd rather this situation, than France ditching one of its most admirable dining traditions.

Sell them in vending machines

For those emergency situations when you’ve lost your mind completely and forgotten to stop by the bakery before it closes. The baguettes are slightly undercooked before being put in the machine, then the machine finishes them off and pops them out them crisp and warm. Genius or sacrilege?

Eat it with cheese

Isn’t it common knowledge that cheese is meant to be eaten with crackers? Well okay, maybe the French can have this one. There really is nothing better than some creamy camembert paired with a perfect crunchy-on-the-outside, fluffy-on-the-inside baguette. Best keep your crackers to yourself if you don't want to commit another almighty dough pas.

Make the world’s longest one

Leave it to the French to break the Guinness World Record for longest baguette, at a whopping 120 meters. Actually, they had some help from the Italians too. And of course the massive baguette was promptly smothered in Nutella. 

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So have we missed something? What’s the weirdest thing you’ve seen a French person do with their baguette? Use it as a back scrubber? 

By Katie Warren

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Comments (3)

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Julian_60a7e3abf33aa 2021/10/26 18:32
The thing that still surprises me a lot is the fact that the French, generally speaking (not wanting to stereotype), expect to eat bread with every meal, even those where rice or pasta are the main source of carb. I first saw this in a Chinese (not Viet) supermarket in Bordeaux around 25 years ago: rice and noodles were being served, but the French told the waiter he had forgotten the bread. I once made an 11-course Chinese banquet for friends, including fried rice, noodles in soup, etc, and, again, bread was requested. It happens around the table with friends, even now. In my childhood in northern England the equivalent was the expectation that café meals came with tea, bread and butter (not quite pain au levain, being the white sliced variety; what my school French teacher called 'decogitated cotton wool'. Tout a fait.
Anonymous 2021/04/02 16:28
The Italians also clean their plates with bread, this being known as 'fare la scarpa' literally 'making the shoe'. By observation the French don't bite directly into the loaf on the street rather they twist the top right corner off and either eat it themselves or offer it to their companion. And, of course, the next size loaf up from 'baguette' in width (but generally shorter) is le baton also known as le batard (neither of these terms requiring translation). But while the half-baguette is known as 'un demi' the half size baton is 'un pauvre batard' (a poor bastard).
  • Anonymous 2021/10/20 23:19
    Ah, yes - in French that is <> . And it's true, biting the croûton (or quignon, depending on where you are) off the baguette is poor form. It should be torn off and devoured immediately after leaving the boulangerie... mmmmm. Then there's the sandwich-sized baguette, une ficelle (also une flûte).
Anonymous 2021/03/28 11:51
Use them as fence posts or hammer nails in with them.

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