The joyful pealing of the bells of Notre Dame de Paris formed a beautiful musical accompaniment to an early morning cafe au lait and beckoned us across the Pont Neuf in spite of the pouring rain. A frequent and sudden occurrence in Spring, some people were equipped with umbrellas, and others like me just got wet.
A large tent set up across the square from the cathedral pleaded for us to join the group who were hurrying in to get out of the rain.
Our senses were immediately assaulted by the delicious warm smells of baking bread. We had stumbled into one of those memorable moments of travel I’m always talking about. This time a competition of Paris bakers.
There were at least fifty bakers plying their trade, some wearing the toque blanche, and all offering an invitation to taste. The variety of things made with bread dough was amazing; baguettes, rolls, loaves of many shapes, and even sculptured flowers and an Eiffel Tower.
Meanwhile, the sound of the bells and the rain on the roof of the tent, mixed with the warm and comforting smells made me feel I could stay in there forever enfolded in the familiar and sensual scent. Much better than French perfume.
I am a bread baker. Some of my most delightful memories are of bread baking in my mother’s and my grandmother’s kitchens. I hope those same memories live in my children’s memories of my kitchen.
Bread actually is the staff of life. Every culture has been making bread of some kind since the beginning of time. The ingredients are so incredibly simple I can’t understand why everyone doesn’t make it. Flour, water, yeast and maybe some salt for taste. Yeast flies around in the air begging people to use it to make their bread rise (or their beer ferment). You can even make your own sourdough by fermenting grapes. Just put them in a cloth bag, bash them about a bit, add some flour and wait a couple of weeks. Voila! yeast! Of course you can buy it already packaged, and it would be faster but not nearly as much fun.
Not for nothing do they call it your “daily bread”, it has sustained people all over the world for millenia. The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam touts “A loaf of bread, a jug of wine, and thou beside me singing in the wilderness”. Possibly the reason they were doing so much singing had something to do with the jug of wine.
The slang word for money is of course “bread” and we absolutely do need that! So put your money on homemade bread, it’s a Wonder.