How could they? I mean, what ARE they playing at? All last week, and most of this, the baker’s shop down the road has been closed. Instead of rising at 2.00 a.m. to get busy making baguettes, flutes, ficelles, baguettes a l’ancienne, flutes tradition, pain noir, chocolatines, croissants and so on and so on, our bakers have chosen to lie in till – ooh, 7 o’clock perhaps – and then spend the day catching up with their families – the children are on half term.
It’s a family business, our baker’s shop. M & Mme Fonquernie owned it, and now, although officially they’ve retired, they help out all the time .M. Fonquernie is the one who drives his little white van round the local villages which have no shops, selling bread. Their two sons have now taken over the day-to-day baking. One is responsible for all those loaves, while the other specialises in patisserie. Their wives divide the work of running the shop between them with Mme Fonquernie Senior’s help.
So our morning routine has been disrupted. First thing each day, one of us usually walks down the road to get our favourite pain noir, hot and crisp still from the oven. The other day, the baker forgot the salt. The bread wasn’t half so nice, but I rather liked this very human error. It proved that our loaves are still ‘artisanale’, rather than being churned out by some computer-assisted machine. There’s usually someone in the shop to chat to, or to walk back along the street with, and so neither of us looks on getting the bread in as a chore.
We’re lucky, I suppose, that there are three bakers in town. Last week, we went to the shops at Castellanes to the baker there. No pain noir at this shop, so we chose their unbleached white. The small one’s a slender baguette shape – an Ariegeoise – but buy the larger butch version, and you must ask for an Ariegeois.
But then what happened? A notice appeared in the shop: from Sunday, they too would be closed for a holiday. So for a few days this week, we have to patronise shop number three. Everybody moans ‘C’est pain industriel ça’. It’s true. It comes all the way from Lavelanet, from a bakery which has three shops. That’s mass production, and it shows. Roll on Thursday, when the Fonquernie family re-opens its shop doors