Yesterday (May 15, 2008) I happened upon the Fete du Pain 2008 on the plaza before the Cathedral de Notre Dame. This festival is now held annually in May in most of the regions of France. One large tent served as a pavilion in which dozens of professional bakers worked in shifts to produce all sorts of breads. With all the ovens working around the tent's perimeter, the hot temperatures reminded me of the conditions under which these folks toil daily.
The various breads and croissants were then freely distributed to people, both in the main tent and in the smaller tents arraigned under the protective eye of a victorious Charlemagne mounted on his horse. I had to think that his tents sheltered soldiers rather than bakers. The bakers were obviously enjoying working together, comparing notes, swapping stories, joking, and meeting their public. Some bakers invited children to try their hand at forming loaves as young apprentices.
I was especially pleased to meet M. Jacques Mabille, President of the Chamber of Professional Bakers in Paris, Hauts-de-Seine, Seine Saint-Denis and Val-de-Marne. He provided the preface to a beautiful book entitled L'art du pain francais (2008), which features wonderful pictures of every stage of producing bread.