Excerpt 9: The Butter is More Famous Than You

“…I handed my host dad my plate. When he handed it back to me, there was a giant piece of gateau aux vegetables occupying my plate like a king. I think I remember reading, too, that the French do not like waste and think it impolite to not finish what’s on your plate. Oh, man, but my stomach is only so big…
“Sara, sers-toi!” help myself… I reached for the salad, took the tongs as gently as I could and scooped big leafy greens onto my plate. I reached for the torn baguette, and felt strange about just ripping a part of it off, wondering if they’re scared of my germs or anything. No one looked up as I tore away the crust to reveal a soft, fresh middle, the crumbs falling on the table below it. I actually considered putting back the small piece that I ripped off and leaving that on the table for everyone else and just taking that long rest of the baguette. Forget what I said before about my stomach being only so big. It is absolutely big enough for this bread, that’s for sure.
I ripped my piece in half and placed it on my plate, looking up for the butter. That’s when I realized that I still had flour on my hands from the crust of the baguette- could this get any more rustic? I brushed it off slowly onto my plate and cleared my throat after thinking it through a few times, “Passez le beurre, s’il vous plait.” Everyone looked up, and my host mom passed it over to me. No one corrected me, so that means I did okay. Right?
Véro looked at me very seriously and I thought I was about to be reproached, “Tu sais, the butter in Bretagne is the best butter in the whole world? We’re famous for it. You know why?”
Shoot was I supposed to research the butter of this place before coming here? No one said anything about that…
“It’s because we put so much salt in it, tu vois?” her eyes lit up and suddenly she looked a little less serious. Phew. “When the Breton people settled here, they had so much salt,”
“More salt than they knew what to deal with!” my host dad said, passing his daughter’s plate back to her.
“C’est vrai, more salt than they knew what to do with! Alors, tu sais quoi ils ont fait avec tout le sel?” I was quiet, because even if I were to guess, it would probably be wrong. I did not study up on the butter of this place.
Marie Pierre grabbed her fork and knife and placed them in opposite hands, then sat up straight in her chair, “We put it in the butter!”
“Oui!” Véro looked to Marie Pierre and nodded her head, proud of her daughter, “We put it in the butter. And now, it is the best butter in the world. Essaies-toi! You will know that you never had butter as good.” I giggled politely because butter always just tasted like butter at home. “Vas-y! Try it!” she nodded her head towards my piece of baguette seriously. Now I felt pressured. I took a bite and pushed it all around my mouth to get a good taste. Damn. I really could have, after swallowing that bread and butter, just stood up, pushed in my chair, and said “goodnight” and just went to bed. There would be no better way to end my first day in Rennes than the taste of that crispy on the outside, soft on the inside bread matched with that creamy, salty butter smothered all over it. Yeah. I could die happy now.
On a way less extreme level, I simply raised my eyebrows and looked at all of them nodding my head, managing to tell them, “c’est fantastique.” As I went in for another bite.
“Ah! Tu vois!” Véro said to me, and to everyone else with her wide eyes as if she had just proven a point good enough to win the Nobel Prize. “C’est le bon pain et le bon beurre!”…”

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