Wednesday, February 1, 2023

French baguette added to UNESCO list of intangible cultural heritage



Lovers of France’s iconic, long bread loaf: Rejoice! The baguette has now earned special recognition by the United Nations as an integral part of humanity’s cultural heritage.

That is to say, the culture and craftsmanship of baguette-making and consumption was added by UNESCO, the Paris-headquartered United Nations agency for culture, to a list that offers not just international recognition, but the option of applying for funding to preserve this “intangible” heritage for future generations.

The baking news sent France into a frenzy of memes — and members of the French UNESCO delegation celebrated by hoisting baguettes into the air as the decision was announced in Rabat, Morocco.

The baguette — which French President Emmanuel Macron once described as “250 grams of magic and perfection” — is an integral part of French culture and culinary habits, with many French people stopping by bakeries daily to pick up a warm loaf before heading home for dinner.

France’s baking industry has led a years-long campaign to secure this status on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.

France’s culture minister, Rima Abdul Malak, said the decision is a “great recognition for our artisans and these unifying places that are our bakeries.”

Olivia Gregoire, minister for small and medium-size enterprises, trade and tourism, celebrated the decision as a milestone for France and its baking industry. It honors “French savoir-vivre,” “our traditions of sharing and conviviality and above all the know-how of our artisan bakers,” she said.

French bakeries produce some 6 billion baguettes a year, according to French newspaper Le Monde. But across the country, particularly in rural areas, bakeries have for the past few decades been disappearing at a rate of about 400 per year, leading to warnings from the industry that more needs to be done to protect the know-how of baguette-making.

“The baguette is very few ingredients — flour, water, salt, yeast — and yet each baguette is unique, and the essential ingredient every time is the baker’s skill,” Dominique Anract, president of the National Confederation of French Bakery and Patisserie, said after the decision.

In August in Paris, a baguette is sometimes a full 20 minutes away

French people celebrated the decision and their love for baguette.

Claire Dinhut, 26, a French American food and travel content creator, said via email: “The baguette is SUCH a staple of French identity so it makes me really happy to find out that it was added to the world heritage list.”

“I rarely eat baguette outside of France because eating a baguette without the French ‘ritual’ of walking to your local (and favorite) bakery is just eating bread. Eating a baguette is SO much more than that,” said Dinhut, who lives in London. “There is nothing comparable to the first rip off of a fresh baguette. It’s perfect on its own, with a fat slab of salted butter, sweet jam, a great chunk of cheese… The list goes on and on.”

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UNESCO recognizes traditions, crafts and items as part of humanity’s intangible cultural heritage because of “the wealth of knowledge and skills that is transmitted” through them “from one generation to the next.”

In this case, the nomination drafted by France highlighted the fact that baguettes “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.”

“The baguette is consumed in many contexts, including during family meals, in restaurants, and in work and school cafeterias,” it added.

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