BUYING a bread, shellacking it and sending it home is a wonderful way to preserve your experience and have a beautiful objet de cuisine to display. It's economical, too; an equally big (7 1/2-pound) bread in the United States would cost more and not be nearly as attractive or authentic. The mechanics of this project are fast and easy, too, but you must be prepared for a blatant dose of Parisian astonishment at the post office.
The French think bread is to eat, would not dream of shellacking it, and will think you even crazier than they think most Americans are anyway if you show up with a shellacked bread. My own experience with the Gallic post went something like this:
Postal assistant: What are you sending?
Me: I am sending a bread.
P.A.: But why send it by boat? It will take two months to arrive.
Me: Do not worry; I shellacked it.
P.A. (incredulous): You have shellacked a bread?
P.A. (calling his colleague and still incredulous): Pierre, come here. She is sending a bread, which she has shellacked, by boat.
Pierre: (incredulous and astonished): You have shellacked a bread?
Pierre: (in a side whisper to the P.A.): Do not trouble yourself with understanding this. She is an American.
If you decide to brave the Gallic post, here's what to do:
Let the bread sit uncovered in your room for four days to dry. You are then ready to take the Metro to Hotel de Ville. From there, walk a short way to the large hardware/housewares department store called Bazar de l'Hotel de Ville, at 64 Rue Rivoli near the entrance for some vernis incolore (vaporisateur), which translates as clear varnish in a spray can, and he will direct you to the proper floor.
When the bread is dry, set it on an old newspaper, shake the spray can and cover the bread completely with spray, bottom first, letting it dry for a moment before you spray the top. Do this three or four times in all, preferably every morning before you leave, so you won't smell the effluvia.
When you are ready to send it, wad up the remaining pages of the newpaper and pack these, along with the bread, in the box the bread came in when you bought it. The package should be so tightly wadded that nothing moves when you shake it. Ask your concierge for wrapping paper and string, then wrap and tie the box, address it carefully in ink and take it to any of the numerous Parisian post offices. It will cost $12.50 to send it by boat, (even more by air), which, with the $5.50 for the bread and the $4.50 shellac, will bring the total to about $22.50.
Remember, this process works only with bread. Do not try this with pastry, pate or sausages.