An Unloved Vegetable Gets a Chance in France


Photo: French bread is gorgeous. But where’s the cornbread?

When we first moved to France, we noticed the French didn’t eat, or sell, fresh corn. When we asked why, we always got the same response: “Corn is for cows!”

Which immediately explained the salad I had ordered once in a Paris bistro. It was billed as an “American Salad”. Curious, I ordered it. It was a normal mixed green salad–--topped with canned corn.

But there is corn for cows (or in a can), and then there is real corn. In Charleston corn is king, or rather queen. The tender, sweet Silver Queen that arrives in the summer markets is a treat like no other.

Then there’s the problem of making cornbread here. Over the years I have eventually been able to find most any product in France that I can get in the states except for two: cornmeal and grits. Both, of course, involving ground corn.


So I was excited then, when I first glimpsed the sign in the boulangerie for Pain de Maïs (corn bread). But no. Pain de Maïs is a sort of baguette with corn kernals stirred into the batter. Delicious, but cornbread it is not. PHOTO, right: Pain de Maïs is made partly with finely ground corn flour (not corn meal) and has corn mixed in.

It’s hard to complain when there are so many other lovely vegetables and breads, but still, it’s a taste of home. Fortunately I can now buy fresh corn in my local supermarket. I’m not sure if that’s because the French are coming around, or because I hounded the manager of the store until he finally decided to carry it.

When friends visit from the states, they sometimes ask before the trip, “I want to bring you a gift, is there something you'd like from the states?” I quickly answer: “Yes please--cornmeal!”

So today I will share with you my very favorite cornbread recipe. Another day, when I'm feeling brave, I'll tackle that lovely Pain de Maïs.

& there was I thinking you were all talking about Christine Boutin again ;-)

I, too, was dismayed when I couldn't find corn for sale here. My sister sends me seeds from New Zealand (honey and pearl variety) and it grows perfectly in our area. I have a year's supply of corn in the freezer. Now I see you can buy vacuum packed corn for barbecuing, but it's almost €3 for 2 small cobs! Lucky are those who have access to larger supermarkets and a variety of flour - we've only just got a regular supply of wholemeal flour down in the deep south. Yes, we do have a local bio shop, but it's hard to find them open!

Similarly, I found that in NZ people eat pumpkin a lot, which was considered animal fodder, or only for Guy Fawkes, in UK.

I have one Greek bread recipe which asks for cornmeal but also states you can use semolina as a substitute.

Lynn, I have indeed always heard my grand father (a farmer in North of France) say that Corn was for the animals or for "gaver les oies" for the foie gras because it did not contain much protein...nor gluten, but it was a long time ago. Now things evolve...but there is still the problem of the GMO and the French mind appears to be quite reluctant to the idea of GMO....

Cornmeal's not hard to find in most supermarkets. You can buy fine and less fine. I used to buy it here to take back to UK to make cornbread and polenta. It also makes a pleasant slightly gritty base on home made bread when used to dust the baking sheet. I also used to make Indian Pudding for dessert.

I love Pain de Mais and my boulanger in Nice uses cornmeal and it's a 'boule' rather than a baguette? I think it must depend where you are, although I used to be able to get it in Pont L'Eveque in Normandy as well..!

I've been told that during WWII cornbread was all that was available, so people now have an aversion!

The website,, has corn meal and Jiffy cornbread mix ... albeit at a dear price!