Backpacking & Baguettes

Baguettes. What is it about them that the French are so obsessed with?

I set out to reveal the truth behind the phenomenon during a backpacking trip around France. Within a few days I was making headway. What makes a good baguette? Why do the French consume so many? After munching about 20 I reckon I had it.

After careful deliberation I concluded it was all about the ‘crunch chew’ factor. The crispiness is paramount in a good baguette. Although there has to exist a vacuum of dough in the hollow nest of the crispy case. It is this fluffy consistency, the airy and delicate state of the dough, that is the go.

In my first two days I had consumed roast chicken baguettes, brie and fresh olive oil baguettes, steak, french fries and sauce combo baguette, toasted aubergine baguettes, shaved ham and mustard baguettes and plain fresh warm baguettes. Mini baguettes, massive baguettes. A baguette bonanza. Too many b’s. Introducing Brian Badongy....

The days in France rolled around the baguette bonanza. They became a morning ritual. A trip down to the local bakery, share a laugh about how hot the baker girl is and some crude joke about a bun in the oven, then wander home along the sun baked road.

The baguette could be enshrined in Frances constitution for all it mattered. (just as the italians have next door have with their parma ham) Life evolves around the crusty bread sticks, like pillars holding up the foundations of society. Everyone pops into the Boulangerie each day to buy their bag I began to understand why and what it meant to share some of this bread. Maybe Jesus is in my Backpack? (see two posts below) Was it only the French that picked up on his lasting legacy of sharing bread....

Hey Mr, Nice Baguette

But its these little rituals I enjoy when getting to know a place. Its the slackpacker in me. Wanting to get under the skin of a place. Wanting to really know how the locals live. What they do and why they do it.

The baguette proved to be my telescope into the kaleidoscopic world of France.

Market Madness in Italy

my first footsteps in italy took me off wandering through a morning food market. it wasnt so much the diverse fresh produce that caught my attention what was even more amusing was the flavor of the italian personalities.

As i wandered through the rows of hanging chorizos & parma hams and fresh orange trees growing outside the stalls of wall to wall cheese, these characters seemed to jump into life...
“ahhh giavani, blah blah blah blah” whilst waving his hands in the air
giavanni replying “ahhh franco, blah blah blah ha ha ha” ad-mist a flapping of flabby arms
both of them chuckling away as one wandered past the other. i couldnt help but think of that scene in family guy where peter trys to speak italian. classic.

i watched as big fat franco wandered down the closed off street, taunting and touting with various characters behind their stalls.
they had the banter. smiles were chucked round and the parma ham slim slices handed out. the atmosphere was jovial as i set off jostling in ad-mist the general hustle and market bustle.

wandering off down the street i became consumed with watching these italian market vendors. one moment i was watching a pretty lady being chatted up by a market vendor, my ears then dragged me round to a lady dishing out some gruyere cheese, ahh grazie.
i made my way across the street and ran into the same young italian dude carrying the pretty ladies vegetables to her car. it was comical and a beauty to watch. this very attractive italian women striding across the road with her prada heels, mini skirt and sun kissed legs. the young dude bouncing along besides her with a smuggy grin smudged across his greasy face. two cliches in one.

it was then when a conglomeration of shrills and shrieks cast my eye back across the road. a large white market van blocked the middle of the narrow one lane road. four or five people on its right hand side were waving their hands in the air. only this time, it wasnt old franco and giavani having a laugh.

i bent down and to my horror, a dog was pinned under the front wheel. for a moment of chaos, maybe a few seconds no one knew what to do. my eyes flicked back up and caught an elderly lady standing there, a shocked and stricken look pulled down over pale face, in one hand her prada handbag, in the other a dangling red dog leash with no dog on the other end. she was looking up to the sky as if to say ‘wheres my dog gone’ or at least that what it looked like, she was probably either praying or cursing her italian gods.

the collective screams and shouts grew louder over those strange long stretch of seconds, and then finally the driver inched forward to pop the small dog out from under its rubber.
i turned and looked away. i had seen a family cat and a dog suffer the same fate.

(actually in hindsight i can laugh, but our cat was ran over as it sat on the top of a parked wheel, when it popped back out, its skin had been ripped off and it was convulsing, its carcas spasming out on the bloody concrete with my family standing on the steps watching unfold like a bad movie. my little sister suddenly stops crying and starts cry-laughing, “looook, hadlees alive, hes still moving” sadly, the rest of us knew hadlee was long gone.)

but needless to say, i turned away at that moment, it threw me off a bit, the whole mornings market banter slipped quietly from my mind as i wandered off, trying to shake those two poignant images from my head.

backpacker illusions from italy

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