The way it works is simple. The woman who delivers the bread — la porteuse de pain, or "bread carrier" — drives up our road at about the same time each day (10:30 a.m. or so) and toots her horn as she drives up. One of us goes out and buys bread from her.
Nowadays, she comes up the hill just four days a week. There's no delivery on Mondays (they say there weren't enough customers to make it worthwhile), Wednesdays (the baker's day off), or Sundays (even though the bakery is open on Sunday mornings). We've found that getting fresh bread four days a week works fine for us. We put leftover pieces of bread in the freezer and have them, reheated, on days when there's no delivery.
We don't have a standing order for the bread. We just buy what we want. The bread lady carries dozens and dozens of loaves in her delivery van — baguettes both de tradition and ordinaire, larger loaves just called pains, and also croissants, etc. If we want a specialty item like a loaf of rye bread or a boule of sliced bread, we can order it ahead of time. I'm sure we could order brioche, a pizza, or a quiche if we wanted to, but I've never done so. If we don't want bread at all, we just say so. There's no obligation to buy anything.
A baguette de tradition is what we've been getting from the bread lady for four or five years now, since the latest baker took over the shop. The bread the baker before him made wasn't nearly as good, actually. The "traditional" baguette is made using organic flour and contains no additives. It's just flour, yeast, salt, and water. That kind of baguette costs one euro. An "ordinary" baguette goes for 85 cents.
If we know we are not going to be at home in the morning, we have two choices. We can let the bread lady know beforehand that we won't be home if we really don't want bread that day. In fact, the baker provides us with a deep plastic bag we can hang out on the front gate for days when we are out at delivery time. We put a euro coin in the bag and the bread lady takes the coin and leaves us our regular loaf. So far, we haven't had any problems with people stealing the coin we leave or the bread she leaves.
In her little white van, the bread lady also has milk, butter, cheese, and even ham that customers can buy from her. This is a great service for people who live out here in the country but don't drive. We drive, of course, but it's nice not to have to get in the car and drive down to the village center or into Saint-Aignan just to buy a loaf of bread every day.
Here's a photo that Walt took in November 2004 showing me with the woman who delivered bread at that time. We've had two other bread delivery ladies since then. You can see all the loaves of bread she was carrying in the back of the little van.
The photos above show the baguette de tradition that we got from the porteuse de pain yesterday morning. You can compare it to the bread I made a few days ago and posted about yesterday.