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.
You 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?