When someone mentions France, chances are high you immediately think of the Eiffel Tower and the seemingly ubiquitous baguette.
While the Eiffel Tower has been considered a UNESCO World Heritage Site for years due to its cultural significance, the baguette has received no formal recognition. That is, until now.
Here’s what changed. UNESCO, which defines intangible cultural heritage as “traditions or living expressions inherited from our ancestors and passed on to our descendants,” met and added the French baguette to its list of food and drinks with Intangible Cultural Heritage. Some of those other items are the making of Neapolitan pizza, kimchi, Belgian beer culture, and Arabic coffee.
Audrey Azoulay, UNESCO’s director general, explained that the recognition honors the “artisanal know-how and culture of the baguette” and also ensures the “artisanal way of baking” is “passed on to the next generation.”
“It’s kind of a way of life,” Azoulay said, according to CNN. “There is always a boulangerie nearby where you can go and buy fresh affordable bread, and you meet people and meet with bakers. It’s a very important element of social cohesion.”
An Important Part Of Daily Life
While French boulangeries, a bakery that specializes in bread, typically sell numerous types of baguette, the most preferred are known as baguettes de tradition or simply “traditions.” The French government even passed a decree in 1993 stipulating that traditions can only be made using flour, yeast, salt, and water.
The problem, however, is that while roughly 6 million baguettes are sold in France every day, many baguettes that are cheaper and inferior to those sold in boulangeries are sold in supermarkets and convenience stores.
“It’s very easy to get bad baguettes in France,” Marine Fourchier, who lives in Paris, said, according to the Associated Press. “It’s the traditional baguette from the traditional bakery that’s in danger. It’s about quality, not quantity.”
To remedy the situation, the National Confederation of French Bakery and Pastry spent 6 years gathering necessary documentation so France could submit a request to UNESCO. That last request was in 2021.
An Expected Outcome
“Baguettes require specific knowledge and techniques. They are baked throughout the day in small batches and the outcomes vary according to the temperature and humidity,” UNESCO now explains. “They also generate modes of consumption and social practices that differentiate them from other types of bread, such as daily visits to bakeries to purchase the loaves and specific display racks to match their long shape. Their crisp crust and chewy texture result in a specific sensory experience.”
What’s more, “the production process is primarily transmitted through work-based training, combining school courses with work experience in a bakery,” UNESCO continues. “This apprenticeship enables future bakers to acquire the necessary knowledge of the ingredients, tools, and process.”
As you would expect, bakers in France are celebrating the baguette’s inclusion on UNESCO’s list of items that showcase Intangible Cultural Heritage.
“Of course, it should be on the list because the baguette symbolizes the world. It’s universal,” Asma Farhat, a baker at Julien’s Bakery in Paris, said, the Associated Press reports. “If there’s no baguette, you can’t have a proper meal. In the morning you can toast it, for lunch it’s a sandwich, and then it accompanies dinner.”
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