Who knew that freshly-baked bread and chilled, rosé wine went so well together? Persian poet Omar Khayyám apparently did 1000 years ago, at least according to my liberal interpretation of perhaps his most famous verse, and Bill and I know it from just one year ago. Carcassonne is seldom lacking in festivals to attend and this past weekend was no different. It was time for the annual Fête du Pain that we would call the “Bread Fest” that celebrates those beautiful baguettes, croissants, brioches, and other delicious treats baked daily at dozens of boulangeries all over town.
It’s not uncommon here to see several people lined up outside a popular bakery waiting their chance to choose their favorite bread. We’re part of that crowd ourselves every Saturday morning after getting our fresh fruits and vegetables from the market on the main town square. We’ve even made the walk back the next morning when, if you buy three baguettes de tradition, their best-seller, you get an additional one free. Any extras get frozen and then rejuvenate, almost like new, after a couple of minutes in the oven.
Although the festival got started at 7:00 AM, probably late in the day for most bakers, we arrived just before noon for the opening speeches and appearances by dignitaries from the mayor’s office, the bakers’ union, the department (think of county or even state government), and members of Carcassonne’s rugby team that just won the French Cup 2 weeks ago. That yellow character in the photo is their mascot, a canary.
While bread and all of its permutations lead the way, other artisans were included as well. We saw vendors of cheese, jams, sausages, soaps, sculpture, pottery, and just about any other handmade craft you could think of. To work off some of those calories you could participate in demonstrations of Zumba, martial arts, country line dancing, and cheerleading. At the end of the day, however, attention returned to baking as the award for the best baguette was presented.
For next weekend Bill has already put the “Bicycle Festival” on the calendar. Immediately after that is the “Triathlon for All”. The starting point for that running, biking, and swimming event is at the same square where we were this morning. I think I’ll be comfortably watching all of that on the sidelines with a loaf of bread and a jug of wine.