Boulangerie poetry

27th January 2010 | Daily Life, Musings | 1 comment

for those sorrowful melodies

for those sorrowful melodies

In the bread section of the supermarket I was startled to see a tall baguette labelled ‘Pain Flute’. I was reading in English and thought the store’s labelling team had gone all poetical on a dark winter’s afternoon. Isn’t there a poem by Tagore which talks about the flute sounding the notes of the writer’s pain? When I’m trailing round supermarkets I often have low moments, and could easily imagine myself playing a pain flute at such times.

It sounded like a theatrical prop that might be used by a Japanese actor in Kabuki, perhaps a samurai sword transformed symbolically in the course of the action into a musical instrument, cutting through the formalities with its high, plaintive wail.

A moment later, of course, I came out of my reverie and remembered that ‘pain flute’ is a French term for a variety of baguette. But I had been briefly transported from the world of aspirational boulangerie to one where everyday objects carried mysterious, illuminating overtones.

1 Comment

  1. Steve Zade

    Not only do the French have a thin baguette known as a flute, often covered with sesame or poppy seeds, but they also had a wine known as ‘piccolo’. The wine, produced in Argenteuil, was often smuggled into Paris to avoid paying a local tax (the octroi), but if the seller was stopped he had either to pay the tax or get rid of the wine. To get rid of the wine they drank it, in barrelfuls. This provides the etymology for ‘piccoler’ – to binge drink. And I always thought that it was the brass section that got to the bar first after rehearsals…


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