When something’s good, it’s often said to be “the best thing since sliced bread.” If you think about it, this saying doesn’t really make any sense – sliced bread is rubbish, it’s boring, and you’d have to be completely bonkers to believe it was mankind’s last great invention.
That said, here in the UK, sliced bread is incredibly popular and people buy it almost all the time. Occasionally they’ll break the routine with a seeded bloomer (at the weekend, as a treat) but other than that it’s sliced bread or nothing.
Compared to Britain, other countries are much more adventurous, bread-wise. In this series we’ll be looking around the world at some of the most unusual breads you can put in your lunchbox.
Baguette and fougasse | France
As we’re seeing through this series, bread comes in many different shapes and sizes. However, of all the possibilities, it’s the French baguette that’s the most famous. The shape of this loaf is instantly recognisable, and the image of someone with a baguette under their arm is stereotypically French (along with stripy jumpers, onions round the neck and endless strikes at ferry terminals).
In France, baguettes are legally forbidden from containing preservatives, meaning they go stale very quickly. Fortunately, their long, narrow shape makes them quick to cook and 25 million are made and consumed in the country every day. The bread can be eaten in a number of different ways – you can tear it into chunks, you can slice it lengthways, or you can just take a bite from the end as you carry it home from the supermarket.
Another popular style of bread, particularly in the Provence region, is fougasse. This is a type of French flatbread that has a crispy crust but is soft inside, and will often have cheese or olives added to the mix. Before baking, the bread is usually formed into a rough wheat pattern and ends up looking a little bit like a pretzel (but a pretzel in a rough wheat pattern rather than that knot shape).
Before you skip across the channel for a yeasty feast, grab your travel insurance.