How the story goes...

How the story goes...

By
Julien Merceron
Contains
0 recipes
Published by
Hardie Grant Books
ISBN
9781742705804
Photographer
Jean Cazals

1761-1791: A shop with the air of a farmhouse cottage

One day in 1760, a young man from Coulommiers arrives in Paris with a grocery diploma, which he has just received from the hands of the Procureur du Roi.

Fascinated by the Parisian life he discovers, he wanders the streets of the capital, frequently drawn to the quarter of Faubourg–Montmartre and its atmosphere that is at once rustic, festive and carefree. During his first year in Paris, Pierre-Jean Bernard falls for the charms of a small farm on the corner of what is now the Rue de Provence. It is a three-room cottage, with an earthen floor and wooden doors, whose three sheds and stables he turns into a pretty épicerie (grocery shop). The corner store quickly becomes an essential stopover in Faubourg–Montmartre, which in the years to follow becomes a charming residential quarter that pulsates after nightfall with balls and guinguettes (drinking establishments), and is a regular haunt of Paris’s high society. Louis XV builds his recreational ‘Hôtel des Menus Plaisirs’ in this part of Paris, and French-style gardens bloom … Three years after making his home here, Pierre- Jean Bernard marries Marie-Catherine Fossey. The Maison Bernard is born. In 1773, the couple buys the store they run their business from, and in 1779 Pierre- Jean Bernard makes the first changes to the store: he modernises, expands and develops a section for confectionery … Paris flocks to the couple’s store to purchase simple, delightful and original products, reflecting the elegant and lighthearted character of the neighbourhood and its inhabitants.

The Maison Bernard is a grocery store in the style of the Ancien Régime. It belongs to the apothecaries’ guild and mainly sells savoury food items such as vinegar, flour, wine and hams from Bayonne, Bordeaux and Mayence, in addition to the delectable sugared almonds, jams, dried fruit and pastries on offer …

1791-1807: The fate of a family man

The Bernards prosper and their daughters expand the Faubourg–Montmartre store.

The aristocrats of the period, as well as its artists, painters, musicians and poets, are attracted to the rustic charm of this outlying district of Paris and settle into the neoclassical houses there. The atmosphere of Faubourg–Montmartre has people all over Paris talking about its cultural avant-gardism, its freedom and its gaiety. In the midst of this joyful effervescence and at the height of the revolutionary fervour, Jeanne, the Bernards’ second daughter, marries Jean- Marie Bridauld, the son of a great family of grocers from Rue Saint-Antoine, who takes a shine to the store. The young couple take it over in 1791 and re-baptise it the ‘Maison Bridauld’. During this time, French confectionery is changing: the old establishments on the Rue des Lombards have become outdated, and the small aristocratic labels have had their day. Maison Bridauld takes root in the wake of a new generation of more democratic confectionery … The French discover the art of entertaining, and the young couple’s store offers fashionable sweetmeats and original products, in keeping with a certain liberation of the pleasures of gastronomy … The Maison Bridauld becomes, beyond its own neighbourhood, the new paradise for gourmands. But with the premature death of Jeanne Bridauld and her two younger daughters, the fate of the grocery store takes quite a different turn … Jean-Marie Bridauld, raising his eldest daughter alone, continues his work in the family confectionery store. A few years later, he meets the beautiful Marie-Adélaïde Delamarre and decides to marry again. It is she who will seal the fate of À la Mère de Famille, by becoming its emblematic figure.

In 1793, in the midst of the French Revolution, the mother superior of a neighbouring convent is said to have taken refuge in the cellars of the store to escape the condemnation of the mob. To thank the Bridauld family for protecting her, she offers them the formula for a sweet syrup with a magical taste … This potion was made up to the end of the Second World War, when the recipe mysteriously disappeared …

1807-1825: A free woman

It is in 1807 that the fate of the store is sealed. Marie-Adélaïde is raising her four children alone after the death of her husband.

She is a woman of character — generous, beautiful, independent and proud of being able to educate her children while at the same time looking after the food store she helped to build with her husband. Faithful to their initial aspirations, she becomes the sole proprietor of the establishment, a unique situation for a woman at that time. The woman known as ‘the widow Bridauld’ works day and night to develop her store to match her vision. She recruits new apprentices, offers treats in tune with the times, brings in confectionery from other regions of France and goes travelling herself to taste and introduce sweet specialties that are often hard to find in Paris. The freedom and independence of this woman quickly build her reputation, and the fame of the store soon spreads beyond the neighbourhood’s boundaries. At the same time, Paris becomes the centre of luxury and fashion, and the store wins recognition thanks to the great gastronomic critic of the day, Alexandre Balthazar Grimod de La Reynière. In 1810, the seventh edition of his Almanach des Gourmands sings the praises of the widow Bridauld’s establishment. Entranced by the young and pretty widow, the critic devotes a full page to her — a unique honour — and extols ‘an establishment worthy of the attention of consumers (…) audacious, delicious, and perfectly run (…) by the amiable and highly interesting Madame Bridauld’. À la Mère de Famille undergoes a glorious boom and officially establishes itself as a landmark of Parisian gastronomy.

It is during the Consulate and then the First Empire that Parisians, coming out of the French Revolution, rediscover everyday pleasures, particularly gastonomic ones. This movement leaves us with the name of Alexandre Balthazar Grimod de La Reynière, founder of the gastronomic clubs of the time and creator of the culinary guide with his Almanach des Gourmands, which aims to steer Parisians towards the best stores of the capital.

1825-1850: At the heart of artistic life

During the first half of the 19th century, artists and the bourgeoisie replace the aristocracy in the 9th arrondissement.

Painters, writers and musicians become habitués of the Rue du Faubourg-Montmartre and its famous fine food store. Berlioz, Chopin and George Sand move into the neighbourhood with the village feel, and a few steps away, in Rue de la Grange-Batelière, Victor Hugo, Sainte-Beuve, Lamartine and Musset have their weekly meetings. The widow Bridauld’s store is the only one in the neighbourhood to offer such a selection of dainties, and paying her a visit becomes more than a trend: it’s a way of life. Dinners and other engagements are accompanied by sweetmeats and delicacies from à la mère de famille, children press their noses to the window and people from far and wide come to admire the work of Marie-Adélaïde Bridauld … Ferdinand, the eldest son, takes his first steps in his mother's food store. Throughout his childhood, he watches her receive customers, advise them, and make her store grow. He grows up in the neighbourhood, where he meets Joséphine, the grand-daughter of the founder of the store … After their marriage, the family of the owners and the family of the managers are reunited. Joséphine and Ferdinand continue the prosperity of the store, the symbol of their relationship, in a quarter that has become one of the most fashionable in Paris.

While the tensions between France and England prevent raw materials from the colonies (including cane sugar) reaching mainland France, Napoleon I decides to support research into a substitute product. The first industrial extraction of beet sugar, in 1812, paves the way to modern confectionery. In the years that follow, numerous processing plants are established, enabling the democratisation and growth of the confectionery domain. Fine food stores start selling their own preserves and invent more elaborate sweets thanks to the discovery of candy sugar in 1830.

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