After a year of sparse postings, I am now eager to get started again.  And so I’ll begin by picking up on a hanging topic.

A couple of months ago, I posted on Worcester Sauce as one marker of former extent of the British Empire.

I asked what the French equivalents might be, speculating that possibly the foil-wrapped cheese, La vache que rit, might be one of them.  None of my commentators was enthusiastic about that.

Instead they focussed on the baguette.

 For the French, how about baguette? This industrial fast baked bread of Parisian origin is ubiquitous in Western Africa and other former French colonies. Anisette (pastis, Ricard…) might also fit the picture, … and that’s bottled!  

Nick Trachet,  

French bread as marker of empire

Baguette. Wikipedia

In western Africa (and northern Africa too) you find plenty of evidence of [baguettes]. Even here in NYC where I am now living, people from Senegal (there are lots), Togo, Benin, Mali, etc. all love their baguettes. At the Senegalese restaurants you get practically a whole one with meals eaten on premises or as take out.

And I’ve read plenty about boulangeries as a staple of communities in cities and towns in French-speaking western Africa and especially Senegal it seems. Not so sure about Haiti, Martinique, and Guadeloupe but I would imagine the latter two for sure.

Rachel Finn, Roots Cuisine


Baguettes in Haiti, too. Crepes in Morocco, plus baguettes. Baguettes in Burkina Faso.

Cynthia Bertelson, Gherkins and Tomatoes

And of course, there’s the banh mi, the Vietnamese sandwich now ubiquitous in the United States and, I believe, in many other parts of the Western world.

So one question and one comment.

The question.  If former French colonies have no problem turning out baguettes, even if as in the case of the Vietnamese, they substitute rice flour for part of wheat flour, how come good baguettes are scarcer than hen’s teeth in the United States?  (Yes, yes, I know they are now out of favor as an industrial bread among the cognoscenti who prefer the traditional long-fermented breads.  But lots of people, me included, still enjoy the crust and the interior of baguettes).  Is it lack of tradition or lack of technology or lack of the right kind of flour?

And the comment.  We’re all talking here about the French political empire.  The French cultural empire was much more widespread and traces of French high cuisine (inaccessible of course to most of the French in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries) were and are found in elite dining worldwide.

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