Bread Winning

Bonjour mes amis!  My friend Candace writes to us once again from gai Paris!  This time, it's about bread.  It's not a story about a job, but it is a story about bread winning!

People think I'm crazy when I say this, but: I hate white bread. I don't like it. The flavor of white bread, pasta, or anything made with regular flour just bothers me in a strange way. I'm a whole wheat girl. I love the earthy, nutty flavors of whole grain bread, so when I eat white bread I feel robbed of that. It's the one food thing I'm really picky about.

Because of this, I was very worried to be spending an entire month in Paris. The city is famous for its delicious baguettes, but I was certain that all the bread they would have would not fit in with my inconveniently selective palette. I was elated to find upon my arrival, however, that many Parisians seem to love whole wheat as well, and every bakery has signs advertising "pain complet" the French term for whole wheat. This diversity came as a huge relief.

The first time I went into a bakery, though, things didn't go so well. I took French language classes in high school and college, so my vocabulary is pretty decent. My listening comprehension, on the other hand, leaves a tiny bit to be desired. I went into the bakery and said to the woman working, "Je voudrais une baguette avec pain complet," to tell her I wanted a whole wheat baguette. She seemed unsure of my order, despite my obviously perfect pronunciation (okay, maybe it wasn't perfect), said a lot of words quickly, and signaled to a loaf on the wall of bread. I was flustered and merely replied with a very meek "Oui." I saw her take a loaf off the shelves that was clearly not whole wheat, but I was too embarrassed to correct her. So I paid and left with bread I did not want. I was disappointed, but it was right before dinner. I was hungry, and I ate it anyway.

I took my first bite, ready to be disgusted. But as I ate the baguette, something seemed off. It was so soft, so chewy. It was somehow spongy and cloudlike at the same time. It was the best bread I'd ever tasted, yet it was white!

This experience illustrated to me, in a very simple way, the idea of "accidents that work." Language barriers can be awkward and frustrating, even embarrassing, but oftentimes, the unplanned experiences that result from miscommunication can be surprisingly rewarding. I never would have ordered a plain baguette on my own, despite my mom's insistence that I have that quintessential Parisian experience. Sure, perhaps I could have been a little braver and corrected the baker to get the loaf I wanted. But sitting here with a plain, white baguette in my hand, I'm a total convert. I have no regrets.

It's amazing how good regular old French bread is. Perhaps it has something to do with the laws surrounding traditional French bread, which forbids preservatives. This means that authentic bread has to be fresh and made daily to avoid staleness. My mom thinks the wheat in France is just special. I don't know. What I do know is that if I accidentally order escargot at a restaurant, I'll take it as another clandestine experience and make myself try it. Maybe French snails are special, too!


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