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Give Us This Day Our Daily Baguette: Bakeries Remain Open In France


Essential workers are the people still going to work in the midst of social distancing. Here in the U.S., it includes grocery store employees, pharmacists, postal workers. In France, bread bakers are essential workers. Keeping up production of baguettes turns out to be essential to helping the French survive the crisis. NPR's Eleanor Beardsley reports.

TONY DORE: (Speaking French).

ELEANOR BEARDSLEY, BYLINE: In the back of his warm, fragrant bakery, Tony Dore pulls a long rack out of the oven. It's laden with golden, toasted baguettes. His words slightly muffled behind a mask, Dore says he's baking fresh bread all day long seven days a week.

DORE: (Through interpreter) Every day so many people have thanked me for staying open. If the bakery started closing, people would be unnerved. In France, we eat bread at every meal. It's a tradition. We cannot go without good bread.

BEARDSLEY: Dore says bakeries, or boulangeries, are now allowed to stay open seven days a week. Before, they had to close on at least one day. There are other changes. Dore is only allowing one customer inside at a time, and he's hung clear, plastic sheeting in front of the cashier, who also wears a mask and gloves. Outside, a long, widely spaced line of customers snakes down the block. Denis Rouviere is wolfing down a chicken and crudites sandwich he's just bought. He works for the home medical service and makes house calls all day.

DENIS ROUVIERE: (Through interpreter) I'm a doctor, and I have full days visiting people in their homes. With all the restaurants closed, I have no their lunch options, so it's important that bakeries stay open.

BEARDSLEY: Veterinarian Nour Ahmed Mirali still sees canine and feline patients in his home. He's stepped out to pick up a couple baguettes and a cake with his 9-year-old son Marwan.

NOUR AHMED MIRALI: (Speaking French).

MARWAN: (Speaking French).

BEARDSLEY: It's so important the boulangeries are open, they say. In France, we can't live without bread. They're helping us physically and spiritually to make it through. Mirali says a loaf of grocery store bread is just not comparable. He calls it the difference between a Ferrari and an old jalopy.

BERNARD GILBERT: (Speaking French).

BEARDSLEY: Septuagenarian Bernard Gilbert is pulling a caddy filled with groceries down the sidewalk. Four baguettes poke out the top.

GILBERT: (Speaking French).

BEARDSLEY: Gilbert says bread, not wine, is the essential staple in France. And in a startling concession in these unorthodox times, Gilbert says he plans to freeze these baguettes so he doesn't have to go to the bakery every day. Then he turns to head home and he tells me I'd better do the same.

Eleanor Beardsley, NPR News, Paris. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Eleanor Beardsley began reporting from France for NPR in 2004 as a freelance journalist, following all aspects of French society, politics, economics, culture and gastronomy. Since then, she has steadily worked her way to becoming an integral part of the NPR Europe reporting team.