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Popular, but in danger, the baguette listed as an intangible heritage of humanity

The organization, which above all honors traditions to be safeguarded more than the products themselves, has thus distinguished the craftsmanship and culture surrounding this essential element of French tables.

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Popular, but in danger, the baguette listed as an intangible heritage of humanity

The organization, which above all honors traditions to be safeguarded more than the products themselves, has thus distinguished the craftsmanship and culture surrounding this essential element of French tables.

With its crunchy crust and soft crumb, the baguette, which appeared at the beginning of the 20th century in Paris, is today the first bread consumed in the country.

Every day, 12 million French consumers push the door of a bakery and more than six billion baguettes come out of bakeries each year. Going to buy bread is thus a real social and friendly habit that punctuates their lives.

"It is a recognition for the community of artisan bakers and pastry chefs. (...) The baguette is flour, water, salt, yeast and the know-how of the artisan “, welcomed Dominique Anract, president of the National Confederation of French Bakery and Pastry in a press release.

“It is indeed a kind of consecration,” rejoices Priscilla Hayertz, a baker in Paris. "It's a basic product that affects all socio-cultural categories, whether you're rich, poor... it doesn't matter, everyone eats baguettes".

"Great recognition for our craftsmen and these unifying places that are our bakeries!" Said the French Minister of Culture, Rima Abdul Malak.

With this inscription, "Unesco emphasizes that a food practice can constitute a heritage in its own right, which helps us to form a society", declared Audrey Azoulay, director general of this UN agency.

- Cream crumb and alveoli -

French President Emmanuel Macron had supported the baguette's candidacy, decided in 2021, describing it as "250 grams of magic and perfection".

This recognition is particularly important given the threats to this know-how, such as industrialization and the decline in the number of their businesses, especially in rural communities. In 1970, there were some 55,000 artisanal bakeries (one bakery for 790 inhabitants) compared to 35,000 today (one for 2,000 inhabitants), ie a disappearance of 400 bakeries per year on average for fifty years.

Constantly evolving, the "traditional" baguette is strictly governed by a 1993 decree, which aims to protect artisan bakers and at the same time imposes very strict requirements on them, such as the ban on additives.

It is also the subject of national competitions, during which the candidates are sliced ​​in length to allow the jury to evaluate the honeycomb and the color of the crumb, "cream" in the ideal.

The competitors work from the same products but the sticks are all different. Each one has its own special touch, for example on the stroke of the blade, the baker's signature.

- Abandoned by the wealthy classes -

And it's easy to miss a wand, even for the most seasoned. "We are very dependent on the weather. We must take (into account) the temperature of the pasta, the water, the bakery", explained in 2019 to AFP the Parisian baker Jean-Yves Boullier.

"Ideally, it should be warm, but not more than 22 degrees, humid but not too much. Otherwise, the pasta relaxes and the bread becomes soft," he added.

In addition to the essential gestures such as slow kneading, long fermentation, shaping by hand and baking in a deck oven, everything is based on know-how, explain the professionals.

The word baguette appeared at the start of the 20th century and it was only between the two wars that it became commonplace, emphasizes Loïc Bienassis, of the European Institute of Food History and Cultures, who made part of the scientific committee that prepared the dossier for Unesco.

"Initially, the baguette was considered a luxury product. The working classes ate rustic breads that kept better. Then consumption became widespread, the countryside was won over by the baguette in the 1960s and 70s," he explains. he told AFP.

From now on, the consumption of the baguette is declining especially in the urban wealthy classes, who opt for sourdough breads, which are more interesting from a nutritional point of view, according to Mr. Bienassis.

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