26 July 2010

the bakery

boulan01it’s going to be your last day to wake up at 6am to walk to the bakery for your little informal stage… because you’re leaving soon for portugal. and then to brittany. and then… to texas.

so for your final day, you bring the camera.

boulan02and you start outside, as usual. this is the view you’re accustomed to in france: the displays. the baguettes. the baskets. the prices. you love it, but you wanted to see more.

boulan03so that is why you wrote a lettre de motivation (a cover letter), translated your resume into french, and attached some photos of pastries that inspired you as well as some pastries you made.

boulan04and the bakery’s response was “when can you start?”

you’re floored. did writing that really just actually work? did they really just say yes?

so you begin the cross into the other side. look, you can even see notes taken down by the vendeuse for future orders. you step behind the counter, behind the register, and into the back…

boulan05and. you’re there. you have crossed from retail to the kitchen! you remember your first day, they have you assembling tartelettes.  they give you a tour. they show you everything. they let you help.

and at the end, perhaps they weren’t expecting it, but you ask, “can i come back tomorrow…?” and the patron says, “oui.”

and so you come back. and at the end of another 4 hours, you ask again, “est-ce que je pourrais revenir…?” and the patron says, “oui.”

and you repeat this every monday, tuesday, and fridays.

on wednesdays, the bakery dort. that’s their day off, and they all sleep. on thursdays, you work at 10am so it’s not possible. and the weekends? well, you keep those free for other things.

soon, you’re a regular and you don’t have to ask to come back each time. it becomes “tu viens quand tu veux” type of thing.

boulan06you do question yourself at 6am each morning and tell yourself how much you hate yourself – but that’s only because you despise waking up.

honestly. a warm bed. even a million dollars would make you grumpy to leave it.

however, once you are out of bed and walking, you are nothing but giddy and excitement.

boulan07you get to see how it’s gone. and you get to pester them with questions. and they, strangely, don’t mind. they like it! so you take advantage of that and just keep asking.

boulan08of course they have piles and piles of tart and cake pans. and lots of grilles for them to cool.

boulan09you love all the random things you learn. like why they have butter and yellow butter in the walk-in refrigerator. the chef explains that historically, when bakeries would store butter in freezers, they would add colorant to differentiate between which butters had been there had been longer so they knew in which order to use their butter. and today, they keep that yellow butter for the color it adds, nothing else (taste isn’t affected). but it is something you can’t get at grocery stores, only for commercial kitchens.

boulan10you try assembling a… hmm, darnit, already forgot the name.

whatever it was called, it wasn’t easy. everybody had a good laugh watching you sloppily try to assemble two meringue based cookies with a layer of cream. not as easy as it looks!

boulan11 it’s quite a small operation. 1 patron (owner – and he’s in the kitchen working just as much as everybody else!), 1 femme (wife), 1 pastry chef, 3 stagiaires (student trainees), 1 person doing viennoiseries, 1 person doing sandwiches, 1 person doing deliveries, 2-3 people in the front, and….

boulan12the baker. you connect with the boulanger. he is equally curious about the usa as you are about france. so you always enjoy wandering over to where le pain is made and chatting with him. many questions, comments, and stories are exchanged in this area.

you know you guys are good friends when he finds you frequent a certain bar that he makes the bread for. perfect.

and yes, that bread scorer is indeed made by gilette, the same razor company.

boulan13there are two types of baguettes in france. baguette and baguette de tradition. the normal one, on the right, is formed by a machine. but the traditional baguette is kneaded less and can only be formed by hand.

but both have nice long resting times in the giant proofer.

boulan14for the normal baguettes that go into the machine, they are cut by pressure. that flat surface in the top right corner is what divides the bread evenly by volume, not weight.

one question you had was “why can’t i find good bread in the states? or in belgium? or anywhere but france!? why?” and his response was so simple and so true. it boils down to the cooking history of a culture.  in france, so many of their meals are sauce based. the bread is basically a necessity to soak up all the sauce. so even if one makes very delicious bread in the states, it still won’t be eaten because american culture doesn’t need bread like the french culture does.

and it’s true. take away the basket of bread from a french person at dinner time, and watch them cringe in discomfort as they can’t properly enjoy their meal.

you will always cherish the people you met and the things you’ve learned in your short and informal stage at the bakery.

now for your to do list in life, you can cross through "work in a french bakery in france." it wasn't as tough as you thought! now to tackle some other goals...


Rosa's Yummy Yums said...

What a great place! I'd love to have been there too...



fanny said...

I feel so happy for you it's almost silly. x

Anonymous said...

This is actually my favourite EVER french post I have ever seen in the history of 'expat bloggers in France'. Oh the photos, the story behind it and the behind the scenes look. I have sent this to all my french friends. Thank you so much for sharing something so special you got to experience! Bookmarking as we speak.

cathy said...

so glad you guys are liking it as much as i enjoyed being there.

doing all this stuff is great, but it's even better when i can share it with others.