Walking into a bakery in Paris first thing in the morning is a heady experience. Nothing compares with it. The bakers have been up since pre-dawn mixing, kneading, shaping and baking so that whole shop display cases and bakery windows are filled with the morning’s allotment of fresh baguettes, croissants, pain au chocolats (chocolate croissants), apple turnovers, sweet raisin rolls, brioches and the dozen or so other morning boulangerie staples.
When one stops to consider the genius in the engineering of the simple baguette, it gives pause for appreciation. I’m talking here more about the social engineering of this long, thin loaf of bread that is baked on-premise at least twice, but more often three times, per day. When it’s fresh, particularly when it’s still warm from the gigantic bread ovens, there are few things on Earth more delicious. But take that same loaf of bread just 12 hours later, and the flavor has diminished by at least half. Hence, with any logical estimation, the continued flourishing of bakeries throughout Paris, and France, can be credited to this simply engineered loaf of bread, which must be baked, bought and consumed – fresh ! – at least twice per day.
Every year there is a city-wide competition for which bakery bakes the best baguette in Paris. The boulangerie who wins is then awarded a year’s contract to furnish the Elysée, where the French President lives and works, with baguette and bread for the year.