Le quignon

shutterstock_258051422‘Le quignon’ is the pointy end of the baguette. I love the crust so it is my favorite part.

It was also the preferred morsel of my late Belle-Mère, so for years I had to pretend I didn’t care when she scooped it, saying “Un petit quignon, c’est mon préféré.” There were two, of course, but somehow it doesn’t do to compete with your mother-in-law over something so trivial as a piece of bread, given you’ve already absconded with her offspring.

I love how the quignon forms a perfectly bite-sized vehicle for enjoying a nice scoop of runny cheese like Saint Marcellin, or a soft mound of Saint Agur. Almost like a cheese cone.

The problem is that it’s an endangered species. Rare is the baguette that survives the trip home from the bakery without its end being ripped off and devoured.

Depending on your bread type – baguette, épée, batard, ficelle – the quignon can be quite pointy, even sharp. I’ve sliced my gums more than once on this crusty pleasure.

Having specific words for things is a measure of their importance in a language and culture. Just as the Inuit are said to have a multitude of words for snow and Hawaiians for fishing nets, so in France there are a lot of words that describe bread. Let’s look at some of the other words the French use to describe the doughy pleasures of the loaf:

Pain – Bread, obviously, but also smaller baked goods like pain au chocolat or pain aux raisins.

Croûte – The crust. Obviously the best part!

Mie – The doughy inner part of the loaf.

Pain de mie – Also a type of bread – the square kind of loaf typically sliced and used for toast.

Alvéole – This describes the airiness of la mie. This ranges from dense in pain de mie to irregular and airy in a baguette.

AlveoleYou already know how I feel about the French stick.

Et toi? Will you fight me for the quignon or do you prefer a different part of the loaf?

24 comments

  1. davidprosser · March 12, 2015

    A fresh French stick was a Saturday shopping treat and the quignon was Ju’s favourite piece. Rarely did it make the trip home with us having been stolen in a variety of ways by various International criminals or by a cadre of French bakers who didn’t want to let the quignon leave the country.
    I think they must have successfully stopped the export now as I don’t think I’ve bought one since.
    xxx Huge Hugs xxx

    • MELewis · March 12, 2015

      That is bittersweet….hope it brought back fond memories of bygone baguettes, and those lovely stolen moments. Biggest bises xxx

  2. emilycommander · March 12, 2015

    It’s funny: in some homes I have noticed that the end gets discarded by the side and eventually thrown away. Presumably the best marriages are composed of one party who loves the end and another who loathes it?

    • MELewis · March 12, 2015

      Funny indeed! What a crime to toss the best bit… 😉 Although I can understand if your taste runs to the softer side of bread, the quignon can be a little too crusty. Maybe why my husband is happy to let me have it?

  3. Osyth · March 12, 2015

    I will not fight you for le quignon. As a child I used to remove all the crusts solemnly and make a wall of them on my plate … my mother protested that my hair wouldn’t curl which I found plainly ridiculous and simply ignored her. On the other hand my husband would do battle with you. I guess, like Jack Sprat and his wife, we are suited, n’est pas? I had no idea, and nor did he, that it is called le quignon – I always call it the nose. I will be very pleased to use the technical term from now on in my quest to improve my French!

    • MELewis · March 12, 2015

      Osyth, good to know we will never have to jockey for the quignon! From the looks of things, it did not stop your hair from growing long and curly. Thanks for sharing your story – I love the image of a stubborn child quietly removing all the crusts.

      • Osyth · March 12, 2015

        🙂

  4. cheergerm · March 12, 2015

    Love the idea of choosing not to fight the Ma in law over the mutually adored quignon as you had already taken her son. You are wise Obi Wan France, wise indeed.

    • MELewis · March 12, 2015

      Oh yes…pick your battles and all that! 🙂

  5. Mélanie · March 14, 2015

    @”I love the crust so it is my favorite part.” – same here… ❤ especially d'une baguette de campagne tiède… total yummy! 🙂

    • MELewis · March 15, 2015

      You said it Mélanie – guess we’re a couple of crusty old gals! 🙂

  6. Jeremy · March 14, 2015

    They really need to make shorter baguettes — we’d get more crusty ends that way!

    • MELewis · March 15, 2015

      Great idea – kind of like everyone’s favorite muffin tops!

  7. Dana · March 15, 2015

    No quignon for me 🙂

    • MELewis · March 15, 2015

      Good to know we won’t have to battle for the baguette. You can have all the ‘mie’….I’ll eat the crusts. Your hair is curly enough!

  8. wanderingcows · March 15, 2015

    It probably lies in my lack of sophistication about bread … but it never occurred to me about the pointy end of the breadstick !

    • MELewis · March 16, 2015

      It’s all in the exposure: we are surrounded by bread culture in France, and often tempted to eat the pointy end!

  9. peakperspective · March 15, 2015

    Oh, yes, I’m a pointy end person too, Mel. I adore the crust. In fact, as a kid I used to have my mom cut off the crust of my sandwiches so I could save them as a treat for later on. When my own children would leave bread crusts or pizza crusts, all I had to do to change their perspective was to tell them that in the crust is where most of the sugar is located. Hats off to food science for helping me win that little battle.
    Cheers!

    • MELewis · March 16, 2015

      Lol. You are even crustier than moi, Shelley! 😉

  10. Pingback: Legends, Laws, and Lengthy Loaves | The Curious Rambler
  11. Margo Lestz · March 21, 2015

    I really enjoyed your article. In fact I linked to it ,and your other post about “How the French stick changed my life,” at the bottom of my recent article about the baguette. You offer very good practical knowledge about a favorite French subject. Thanks so much!

    • MELewis · March 21, 2015

      Glad you found it interesting and thanks for linking! Your piece provides some fascinating history of la baguette. Merci!

  12. sabine · March 21, 2015

    A lesson in breadology, quel plaisir!

    • MELewis · March 22, 2015

      Breadology? I think you’ve coined a new word for translation into French. Merci!

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