Le pain (= bread) has a central place in French culture. There are lots of things you can and can’t do with French bread, and if you aren’t familiar with these unwritten rules, French people will look at you with horrified faces!
Don’t worry, though — today you’re going to learn the most common embarrassing mistakes that foreigners make when it comes to French bread. I hope you enjoy this lesson on an important part of French food culture.
Learning goals: This is what you’ll be able to do after watching this lesson
- Beginner: Learn some customs around French bread in France
- Intermediate: Learn new, everyday French vocabulary
- Advanced: Master the examples in the lesson
Bonjour c’est Géraldine.
Bienvenue sur Comme une Française. C’est parti !
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La sauce is a dish’s sauce. Saucer is a French verb that means essuyer la sauce qui reste dans son assiette (= “to mop up the sauce from your plate”)
J’aime bien saucer mon assiette après avoir mangé du boeuf bourguignon.
I like to mop up the sauce in my plate, after eating some beef Burgundy.
You can do that with bread! Better still, you should do it with bread.
Just don’t do it avec les doigts (= with your fingers) or avec une fourchette (= with a fork).
Tremper (= to dip, to plunge) as in Tremper son croissant dans son café (= to dunk your croissant in your coffee), lives in the grey area of French manners and French culture.
While this is a very ‘French’ thing to do, we never do it in a fancy place or formal situation. However, there’s some leeway for private breakfasts – because c’est trop bon ! (= it’s too delicious)
Jeanne trempe toujours ses tartines de confiture dans son bol de chocolat au petit-déjeuner.
Jeanne always dunks her jam toasts in her chocolate bowl during breakfast.
Never dip a whole baguette in coffee!
3) Mettre le pain à l’envers
Mettre le pain à l’envers (= putting / leaving some bread upside down) is a big no-no in French culture!
Ça porte malheur (= it brings bad luck.) For me it’s even un réflexe (= a habit, an unconscious gesture):
Quand je vois du pain posé à l’envers sur la table, je ne peux pas m’empêcher de le retourner.
When I see upside-down bread on the table, I can’t prevent myself from turning it right-side up.
4) Mettre une assiette pour le pain
Mettre une assiette à pain (= to add a small plate especially for bread) isn’t really a “mistake” – but it’s something French people just don’t do.
French bread comes in la corbeille à pain (= a small bread basket) on the table. We take a piece and put it next to our plate, sur la nappe (= on the tablecloth), or parfois sur le bord de son assiette (= sometimes on the side of your plate.)
Mais moi, je préfère poser mon pain sur ma serviette.
Though for me, I prefer leaving my piece of bread on my tissue.
5) Croquer le bout de la baguette
Croquer le bout de la baguette (= directly eating the tip of the baguette) is something you should never do !
This is especially true if you’re already seated at a table. Instead, the baguette should be cut into smaller pieces in the breadbasket, with un couteau à pain (= a breadknife).
When French people buy their baguette from la boulangerie (= the bakery), we often cut le quignon (or le croûton) (= the tip of the baguette) with our hands and eat it first. It’s a sign of good bread! But, we never bite into it directly.
In an episode of Comedians in Cars getting Coffee with Jerry Seinfeld, comedian (and alleged-joke-thief) Gad Elmaleh makes a lot of mistakes with bread – in a way that would embarrass many French people.
Can you spot two of them?
Et toi ?
If you love French food and French food culture, click here to check out the video playlist that I put together for you on the topic. I’ll see you in the next video!
Quelle autre règle sur le pain connais-tu ?
What other rule about bread do you know?
Let me know in the comments. In French, if you dare 🙂
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Allez, salut 🙂