One of the most recognisable French symbols, after Eiffel Tower and a marinière, is the baguette. The long and thin bread with its crispy crust is a French staple and has now received UNESCO protection as a ‘cultural heritage’ symbol.
According to the Observatoire du Pain (or Bread Observatory, because of course the French have a scientific organisation dedicated to bread), 320 baguettes are sold every second in the country.
“Baguettes require specific knowledge and techniques,” said UNESCO in an online statement, “They also generate modes of consumption and social practices that differentiate them from other types of bread.”
This recognition comes after France’s culture ministry revealed that there’s been a “continuous decline” in the number of traditional bakeries that make baguettes. 400 well-known artisanal bakers have closed shop since 1970, after the advent of supermarkets and industrial bakers.
The official title stipulates conditions that make a baguette truly a French Baguette.
“The traditional production process entails weighing and mixing the ingredients, kneading, fermentation, dividing, relaxing, manually shaping, second fermentation, marking the dough with shallow cuts (the baker’s signature) and baking,” wrote UNESCO, “Unlike other loaves, the baguette is made with only four ingredients (flour, water, salt and leaven and/or yeast) from which each baker obtains a unique product.”
UNESCO Director-General Audrey Azoulay said that the bread “celebrates the French way of life.” She added, “The baguette is a daily ritual, a structuring element of the meal, synonymous with sharing and conviviality. It is important that these skills and social habits continue to exist in the future.”
Dominique Anract, the president of French bakery organization Confédération Nationale de la Boulangerie-Pâtisserie Française said in a statement, “It is a recognition for the community of artisanal bakers and patisserie chefs. The baguette is flour, water, salt, and yeast—and the savoir-faire of the artisan.”
The French Government has announced that an ‘Open Bakehouse Day’ would soon be launched to celebrate the recognition.