The baguette, a long thin loaf of bread, is as much a symbol of France as the Eiffel Tower and may soon join UNESCO’s (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) listing of cultural treasures.
The traditional craft loaf is a mix of wheat flour, water, yeast and salt. It’s purchase from the local bakery has been a ritual in French daily life for decades but is being pushed off shop shelves, even in France, by frozen bread sticks made on giant assembly lines, says bakers.
“There’s not one single secret to making a good traditional baguette,” said Mickael Reydellet, owner of a prominent bakery. “It requires time, the right way of baking and good flour without additives.”
The Confederation of French Bakers has submitted its application to be added to the United Nations (UN) rankings of intangible treasures. Bakers say the UNESCO listing would protect the perfect mix that has passed through generations and protect the baguette from imposters around the world.
The UNESCO “intangible heritage” marker, meant to recognize oral traditions, performing arts, social practices, rituals and methods of traditional craftsmanship, already covers ancient methods of making flat breads in Iran and Kazakhstan. It has also recognized the craft behind brewing 1,500 or more beers in Belgium along with the Neapolitan art of pizza twirling.
A 1993 French government decree dictates that “traditional” baguettes must be made from nothing more than the four classic ingredients. Fermentation of the dough should last 15 to 20 hours in a temperature between 4 to 6 degrees Celsius.
Threats to the baguettes
France’s boulangeries have been hit hard by COVID-19 restrictions over the past year. Mr. Reydellet said, “This title would comfort bakers and encourage the next generation.”
About 6 million baguettes are sold daily in France. But Dominique Anract, president of the bakers’ federation said the cultural habit was under threat, with some 30,000 bakeries closing since the 1950s as supermarkets took over.
The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization is a specialized agency of the United Nations aimed at promoting world peace and security through international cooperation in education, the sciences, and culture. It was founded in 1945 and is headquartered in Paris.