French baguette

07 Apr 2020

Coronavirus: social isolation and the French baguette

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As the world bunkers in, the unique cultural ways that countries are coping with the coronavirus pandemic is revealing a lot about each nation’s distinct character. What is France without its boulangeries? While the beret may have fallen out of fashion, the traditional French baguette never will – not even in a pandemic.

The world increasingly bunkers in to help slow the virus’ spread. However, one of the most interesting phenomena taking place is the creative, quirky and inspiring ways that different cities and countries are coping with the pandemic and defining their own distinct “quarantine culture” along the way. 

French baguette
Understand what the French baguette has to do with COVID-19! (Source: Baking Med)

What does the French baguette have to do with the COVID-19 pandemic?

In many ways, this global pandemic is laying bare what really matters to different nations, and in the process, revealing a lot about a country’s character. It’s also reminding us of the many people, places and cultures that make this world so wonderfully diverse.

French government has imposed strict lockdown measures that require anyone leaving their home to produce a signed form justifying why they’re outside. It has also shuttered all “non-essential” businesses. The official decree issued by the French Health Ministry lists some 40 exceptions that are also deemed “indispensable for the continuity of the life of the nation” – including boulangeries, butchers, wine and cheese shops.

Now, every morning the scent of freshly baked bread wafts through France’s empty streets as some 33,000 bakeries throughout mainland France remain open. The neighbors continue their daily routine of picking up a fresh baguette, ensuring a safe social distance from one another.

Baguettes and culture

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The baguette is emblematic of French culture. The first place you visit as a small child is the boulangerie to buy bread. While for the elderly, the only human contact during the day is often with the local boulanger (baker). The decision to keep bakeries open in a coronavirus pandemic makes perfect sense. 

The French are renowned for their artisan breads. By using the four basic ingredients of water, flour, yeast, and salt, the French have mastered the art of creating complex breads that widely vary, despite the fact that each loaf contains the mixture of the same ingredients.

Not only the baguette is important. In Paris, wine seems to be just as valuable as hand sanitizer these days. The French cannot consider having a good meal without drinking wine. It’s like a meal without bread. 

The coronavirus and social distancing may interrupt the cheek-kiss practice of bises in France, but no pandemic will deny french people the joyful joie de vivre spirit. Long life for the French baguette and for the French people.

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