Here is the beauty of the French breakfast. Whether the morning be rushed or staid, time is given to it just as it is to every other meal. Even on a weekday morning breakfast gets it specific moment. Someone gets the coffee made and the bread sliced, someone else pulls out the accompaniments, then everyone sits down together. There is a big basket of fresh or toasted bread on the table, but no plates because,somehow, the French psyche doesn't mind crumbs and even the occasional drip of jam on the tablecloth. There won't be a napkin and there isn't much conversation; breakfast is focused. It's about waking up, a quick but rich moment to gently emerge into the day, fueled by coffee and chocolate, toasted bread, the luxury of butter and jam.
'But what about croissants?' you ask. What's really happening at breakfast time in most households is that toasters are working overtime. The French buy their bread one day and toast whatever is left over for breakfast the next. Croissants are considered special, and they're also the original fast food — you eat them for special occasions and for those desperate moments when you're starving and there wasn't time to make toast. ...
Those gorgeous, golden, shattery pastries that sit on patisserie and boulangerie shelves, which are called viennoiseries because they were based on Viennese pastries and popularized by a Viennese baker in Paris, don't go to waste, but they are not the stuff of the everyday French breakfast. As my friend Michael Ansalem, a professional pastry shelf and baker, said, laughing, 'I spend my time making croissants and pains au chocolats, but sometimes I wonder who eats them all. My coworkers might eat one or two but I never do. I like my toast and jam.'
Michel's wife, Chantal, who spent her time serving customers at the boulangerie the couple owned, definitely knew where they went. 'Weekends,' she said, her hand on her perfectly clad hip. 'Weekends are the big moment for viennosseries, People have time then, and viennossieries deserve a little extra time.'
As I emerge not-so-gently into my Monday morning tomorrow, I'll spend a little extra time thinking about how good all of this sounds, and try to be more French in this way at least. :)
... After a French breakfast, once everyone has gone on their way, the lingering peace remains. I love walking into a French home at that moment. There is the scent of toasted bread, the underlying aroma of butter and the tempting perfume of coffee. Bowls — which are, somehow, always pretty, rarely color coordinated, filled with personality, as each belongs solely to its owner are right where they were left, there is that messy scatter of crumbs on the table. The tableau speaks of warmth, comfort and togetherness.
home cooking in France, by Susan Hermann Loomis