the bread of life
France conjours up many evocations, but in most discussions of the French way of life, bread, cheese and wine will come high up the list! Bread is incredibly important to French culture, and to the psyche. Although it seems that Marie-Antoinette never actually said 'let them eat cake', the fact remains that it was severe bread shortages - it being a staple of the diet at that time - and the starvation that ensued that led, ultimately, to the Revolution.
The golden rules of buying bread are:
- Although it's convenience is tempting and the bread is usually fine, rather than buying from the supermarché please support our community's local bread shops, all of which have their different characters, and different styles of baking. See further below for details of nearby boulangeries;
- A shop can only call itself a boulangerie if it makes its bread in-house. If it sells bread made elsewhere on an industrial scale, it is called a 'depot de pain'. Obviously we would recommend you shop in artisan boulangeries where-ever possible.
- Why not try something other than baguettes Most boulangeries will also sell pain (which is thicker than a baguette); pain de campagne (country bread - white bread made in a slightly different way and often incorporating some whole wheat flour or some rye flour, so that it keeps longer); wholemeal breads (pain complet or pain aux céréales), rye bread (pain de seigle), sourdough bread (pain au levain), and a sweet bread called brioche.
- If you want to practice your French, try comparing the taste of a whiter, less well cooked, baguette ('une baguette pas trop cuite) which has a softer crust, with a crusty and brown one ('une baguette bien cuite')
Although there are no boulangeries in Villemorin itself, there are a number nearby, and these are our recommendations:
Aulnay - after you have passed the roundabout into the town and then the halt sign, there is a boulangerie on the left hand side; if it's neon sign is lit, it is open! Also as you go down the hill and enter the square, to your left there is a small red shop called Patrick Troubady, which is always busy - on market days the queues extend well into the street. This is our favourite in Aulnay, and the sweet old dear who often serves there is very friendly. There is also a patisserie diagonally opposite, just past la Concorde bar - this also makes some nice artisan bread, although it is a bit more expensive. Finally, at the bottom end of the square, turn right as if heading towards the church, and there is another boulangerie on the left.
Néré - probably the closest to Villemorin, and the easiest for parking - just after you have passed the town sign on the road in from Villemorin, you will find this boulangerie on the right hand side of the road. In the mornings, we recommend their croissants and for a sugar rush the 'pepite de chocolat', although these do tend to sell out quite early! If you are in a panic, there also have an automatic baguette dispenser for when the shop is closed, which is fun for the kids to use, but this too does tend to run out. On Sunday mornings, there are usually a couple of stalls in the courtyard of this shop.
Saint Julien de l'Escap - if you are visiting or passing through St Jean d'Angely (as you will for Rochefort, Saint Savinien and possibly Saintes), you cannot fail to notice this shop, which is at the opposite end of the roundabout which follows the long straights down from Aulnay, on the outskirts of Saint Julien de l'Escap. Don't be put off by its modern exterior: this is a very fine boulangerie which bakes its bread twice a day, has plenty of parking, and is usually open until 7:30pm. We particularly enjoy the Pain de Saint Julien. We always buy our bread here if passing through. This shop also has a wide range of irresitable cakes and patisseries, plus savory items. If you are going out for the day, why not collect a couple of their really nice quiches.