Many might experience a traditional French breakfast and say “Why, that’s not a breakfast at all!”
But they would be wrong, because like so many a French gastronomic traditions, the French breakfast is simply perfect. After all, it includes four major food groups: coffee, bread, butter, and jam.
But what about nutritional guidelines which hold that a perfect day must begin by eating whole grains and lean protein, low-fat dairy and either fruit or vegetables. Well, that is surely a concept but not a French one. The very idea of lean protein at breakfast doesn’t fly, and we won’t even get into the concept of low-fat dairy…
For at a true French breakfast, no holds are barred. Baguettes are cut into lengths then slathered abundantly with butter, then with jam, then dunked into a bowl of steaming, strong, yummy coffee. It can be messy, it isn’t particularly elegant, and it is absolutely delicious! (and may I note that after breakfast the butter is put into the fridge, not to be brought out again until another breakfast.)
Silence is Golden…and Delicious
I learned to love the French breakfast when I first visited my French family, the Leroy’s of Le Vaudreuil many years ago. We all crowded around the kitchen table in front of the fire early in the morning to dip our baguettes and sip our coffee. The kids had hot chocolate and sometimes there was breakfast cereal but mostly it was a pile of baguettes. We would each cut a length, slice it open, and reach for the butter which had to be scraped off the top (family rule) because it kept the butter pat nice looking. Jam jars circulated like cars around the Arc de Triomphe and since only the adults drank coffee, there was always plenty poured from the vacuum coffee pot. No one spoke, and I loved that too. We were there to feed our hungry bellies, not make polite conversation.
The kids would put on their coats, heft their twelve-ton backpacks onto they backs and rush out the door to walk to school; the father of the household, Bernard, would shoulder his suit coat, grab his files and briefcase and with a swift peck on Edith’s cheek be off. Edith would sink into her chair, pour another cup, cut another length of baguette and the two of us would talk. It was the best moment of the day, dipping our baguettes into coffee amidst the hillocks of crumbs on the table, the dribbles of hot chocolate on the tablecloth, knowing everyone was on their way to where they should be. Then, we’d get to work.
French Breakfast is Easy to Set Up
The French breakfast is simple to set up: get up early, run to the boulangerie (whichever is your favorite, there are always a handful within running distance), get a “tradition bien cuite” or traditional baguette well-cooked so its crust shatters when you cut into it. Then home, make the coffee, the butter is out and so is the jam because you’ve thought of that in time for them to come to room temperature. Two people can make short order of one baguette in the morning so plan accordingly, then proceed to a perfectly productive day.
Joy and Pleasure to Start the Day!
So, while the elements of a French breakfast may not fit current nutritional guidelines for a healthy breakfast, they are rich in texture, flavor, delight, and they create such indulgently simple pleasure. I’m convinced that a morning of joy and pleasure equals all the nutrition in the world!