In France, almost 50 years after Bonne Maman was founded in the tiny town of Biars-sur-Cère, in 1971, its jaunty jars of preserves, with their signature red-and-white gingham lids and white labels with black cursive writing have become as much an indelible icon of Gaul as mold-flocked white rounds of Camembert cheese in round wooden boxes, or the late president Charles de Gaulle’s beaky nose. This is because Bonne Maman broke the mold of commercially made jam in France. (Meanwhile, in the U.S., toast-lovers are outraged by reports that the vats at Sqirl, one of the country’s most lauded artisanal-jam producers, were often covered in a thick layer of mold.)

The Grandeur of Gallic Abundance

Bonne Maman’s success is not only explained by the fact that the French love preserves as part of their beloved breakfast trinity, where it is served with bread and butter. (Preserves are made of whole fruit, while jam is made from crushed.) The condiment’s psychic connotations strum many of those chords of self-regard the French like best about themselves, including their cult of connoisseurship in the details of daily life, a heritage of wily ancestral peasant thrift (the shrewdness of using sugar to transform perishable fruit into a long-life preserve, even if it was actually the Arabs who introduced cane sugar and jam-like fruit pastes to Europe during the Middle Ages), and the grandeur of Gallic abundance—the varied geography of France means it produces high-quality harvests of every fruit grown in temperate and Mediterranean climates.