In the 1790s – I have read – the French feared a shortage of bread – a famine, in fact. So they passed a law that said the bakeries had to stay open. Fast forward to the twenty-first century. When most businesses just close for August, bakeries had to declare either July or august as their vacation time. And somehow the government managed it so that there was always a bakery open in a neighborhood. In fact, the closed bakery had to tell the city hall of their vacation and also had to post their notice of closing where the closest open bakery could be found.
The baguette is a staple of a Frenchman’s diet. But that has been changing.
Stats from 2013:
97.6% of French people eat bread but consumption in France has dropped to half a baguette per person per day, down from three baguettes per day in the early 1900s and one baguette in the 1970s.
THREE baguettes a day? Mon Dieu!!! I have been cutting down on bread consumption myself. It’s so deliciously tempting. When you stop at the Boulangerie and you discover that they have just put out warm bread – sacre bleu! How can you be expected to get home without nibbling on the end… and when you get home, what? Where did that bread go? You just have an empty bag! Merde!
My French friend Veronica, who insists that the laws about the Soldes (sales only twice a year) make total sense, seems more lackadaisical about the bread laws. She said to me,
But you wanted progress?!” Well, sure, but drop the Soldes law and keep the bakery laws!
The posting notice has gone away. The decision to drop the rules was made in 2014 so this is the first year. News articles are saying that disgruntled Parisians are searching in vain for their baguettes. And two weeks ago, a Parisian stopped me in the street and asked when I had purchased the baguette in my hand. I may be lucky she didn’t wrestle it away from me.
These changes are all done in the spirit of removing bureaucracy. But why why why start with bread?