I can still hear my French professor’s voice in the back of my head, reciting that which only could have been an old French idiom passed down by the nuns in French grammar school:
“On ne coupe pas le pain, on le rompt.” (You don’t cut bread, you break bread)
Rip French Bread, Don’t Slice It
Religious, superstitious, or cultural, the French simply don’t slice their baguettes. The polite way to eat bread at a table or restaurant is to rip it with your fingers.
Occasionally you’ll find a baguette that has been sliced for a sandwich or tartine (sort of an open-faced baguette sandwich), but even then, the bread is just cut once, longways, straight down the middle.
Kind of like a “sub” sandwich… (except, better)
The Bread and Butter
Think of butter like mayonnaise: you can put it on a sandwich, a tartine or use it in cooking, but you don’t really spread it on your bread during dinner.
Popular lunch sandwiches list beurre (the French word for “butter,” pronounced “brr” like you are cold) as one of the ingredients. You can get jambon beurre (ham and butter), for example, which is just a buttered baguette with sliced ham.
But unless you’re making a sandwich, it’s pretty uncommon to butter your bread. Instead…
Clean Your Plate
We love those saucy dishes coming out of French kitchens so much we often want to lick the plate clean. Well, so do the French.
Bread is often used as a “plate mop” in France. You can tear off a piece of table bread and put it on the end of your fork to soak up extra sauce or vinaigrette on your plate.
All etiquette aside, it’s simply just easier to rip a baguette than to cut it and simply more delicious to soak it in mussel broth than to drown it in butter. But I won’t tell if you keep slicing…
How do you eat baguettes? Do you prefer your bread sliced, ripped, covered in butter, toasted to a crisp? let me know in the comments!