Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Dirty Dirty French Germs.

It goes without saying that different cultures have different standards of cleanliness. I won't go as far as saying that the French are dirty bastards, but I have discovered over the years that they do have some sort of magical thinking when it comes to the handling of their beloved baguettes.

Apparently, to the French, baguettes are somehow magically immune to bacteria. It isn't uncommon to see French people walking around town with a baguette shoved underneath their arm or sticking out of the top of their shoulder bag where it can (and does) come into contact with not only their armpit germs, but with all of the people and objects they randomly bump into on their way home to eat said baguette.

Case in point: Last week while standing in yet another unusually long line at La Poste, (Who am I kidding here? There's always 18 people in line in front of me.) I witnessed a woman put her shoulder bag down on the dirty, grimy, and slightly wet floor---which then left her 2 baguettes leaning against the only slightly less filthy yet hopelessly scuffed-up counter. (Which undoubtedly got that way due to the hands of dirty French babies that love to just hang out in the post office.)

Now, I knew you wouldn’t believe me when I told you this, so to prove my point, I whipped out my camera phone and I took a sneaky photo.


post office 001




In unison: “Ewwwww!”

Or if you’re a native French speaker: “Beurk!”

For the love of God the Father, the Son, the Blessed Virgin Mary, and the Holy Spirit, (and for that dirty lady’s sake), I pray the baker made that baguette with blessed flour and holy water.

Amen.








19 comments:

Sara said...

good work on the photo!
your post office floor/counter looks just like ours :)

and ewwwww on the baguette thing, it also bothers me how the bakery ladies LICK THEIR FINGERS to seperate the paper for the bread.

The Late Bloomer said...

OK -- now don't shoot me here -- but I have to sheepishly admit that I may have already been guilty of similar behavior myself! (:hiding behind a baguette:) I don't necessarily think I would let a baguette rub up against something grimy and gross, but when carrying bread back home I'm sure I've let it come in contact with less than pristine items... How can we stop this from happening if we have other stops to make along the way? And I think part of the problem is in the fact that the bakers don't put anything but those tiny scraps of paper around the bread... Then again, further wrapping wouldn't be ecologically sound either, so you lose one way or another...

Madame K said...

LTB- Oh! I think I saw in the 3suisse catalog a re-useable sleeve made just for carrying baguettes. If I remember correctly they even came in fancy colors, but I have never ONCE seen one being used in real life.

Oh well, Maybe all the dirty baguette eating is good for the immune system?

OMYWORD! said...

I am SO GLAD you wrote about this. I've been thinking it for months, but never said it OUT LOUD. :-) I make my boyfriend carry the groceries and all I carry is the bread, stretched out in front of me, where I can see it at all times. I don't trust him with it. Germs follow him around like he's the pied piper. They're all arguing and fighting over their place on his hands. sigh. Boys are gross.

Cherise said...

Well, since they've been doing it forever, they've probably already developed an immunity to all the usual bacteria, so they're good. :)

Leah said...

That's nothing! Just the other day, I was minding my own business on the bus ride home from work and this cute, old lady gets on the bus. She procedes to take a seat near me at the front, but struggles a bit before managing to take the step up to the seat and, in the whole process, she drops her baguette on the bus floor. Because she's already up in the seat, the baguette gets to roll around on the bus floor picking up all possible delicious filthiness that lies on bus floors. Someone nearby picks it up and hands it to her and she tucks it right back in her bag for safe-keeping. Eww, that's just Filthy McNasty right there!

Travel said...

Maybe this explains why the French live so long, either that or all the red wine.

DG

raynaae said...

my (FR) boyfriend sometimes serves the bread and cheese directly on the table and not on a plate/napkin (any kind of bread or cheese), which bothers me insides. Especially because where we dine is shared by (mostly male) roomates and their guests. Not that im a germophobe but seeing a slice of bread, no less a bare piece of cheese on a communal table is like begging the bacteria to move in - in my mind!

Penny said...

Really? I looked at your photo (well-snapped BTW) and thought it didnt look too bad. Maybe I've lost any germphobia I had since having kids. I live with 2 little germ factories - what's a few million more?

:)

Megan said...

No way. The worst is when the boulangere hands you your baguette (which she put in the bag using her hands) and then takes your money. How many times has she done this all day long? That just grosses my husband out. He is certain that is why he gets sick.

Reb said...

My boulangère told me that they use special anti-bacterial flour...just for us Americans.

BlackGirl said...

Funny post! Are hygiene issues regarded differently in Europe? Take my story. First time I ordered at McDonalds in Prague the handlers weren't wearing gloves. I asked. They said, "Oh, we don't wear gloves, but don't worry, we wash our hands...." How comforting.

Cherise said...

About gloves - it's actually better if they rely on washing their hands and not wear gloves. That's because many people 'forget' they have gloves on or think because they do they don't have to take precautions like - not wiping your nose with your hand, or rubbing your eye, etc. I've seen food service workers with gloves do such things and not change their gloves!

In dealing with infection control issues, we recommend people *not* wear gloves, but instead wash their hands or use hand sanitizer in every day situations.

A Seattleite in Paris said...

I thought it was bad enough walking around the corner with part of the baguette exposed to the Parisian smog...but that is just gross.

Julia said...

I love this post! I lived in the South of France for a while (and LOVED it obviously!) but it was very odd to me as well how baguettes are their own protection against any sort of germs. They hand you the baguette, wrapped in a thin bakery paper, without gloves and it is almost necessary that you carry it home under your arm. As if there is no other possible way to carry the wonderful thing.

But then I take into consideration the cost of the baguette. It is only 69 cents, can we expect anything more than a thin bakery paper wrapped around the middle of the baguette, only to cover less than 1/4 of the entire thing? I guess not. It's part of the culture, and a part that I love!

Thanks for sharing your experiences, and reminding me of the ones I hold so dear to my heart!

Julia

The Late Bloomer said...

Hey -- I just had to pop back in for the follow-up. This topic brought lots of responses, huh?! Funny how we all basically have a fear of these germs, but have either gradually adapted to things or just try not to think about it. I guess I'm not as conscious about things as I used to be, but at the same time, I am definitely obsessive about washing my hands throughout the day, as often as possible, especially before eating.

I love the idea of the baguette-holder though, Madame K! I'm definitely going to look into that... Hmmm, going to have to get my hands on a 3Suisses catalogue!

Madame K said...

I dunno. Dirt freaks me out. But at the same time I think---duh that's what I have an immune system for.

I've never heard of anyone dying from baguette germs.

Seriously, are there any scientists out there who can tell us why an entire nation of people doesn't drop dead from eating those dirty baguettes?

And thank you Cherise for weighing in on the glove and food handling issue...I have always suspected that those rubber gloves can't possible be cleaner than washed hands! Ha!

Au Naptural said...

I always thought the baguette thing was kinda gross too, but I'm a native New Yorker. I've eaten my fair share of "street meat" from vendors who neither wear gloves nor have facilities to wash their hands. It's gross when you think about it, but that hot dog/pretzel/kebab probably wouldn't taste the same if it were any other way :-)

o_O said...

Madame K, you are too funny. You need to write a book! Thanks for nice thoughts as I head out the door to fetch a baguette.

Rob
(born in Michigan, living and taking on more germs in Alsace)