The baguette – a mix of wheat flour, water, yeast, salt and a pinch of savoir-faire, and as much a symbol of France as the Eiffel Tower – has gained UNESCO recognition as the UN body on Wednesday voted to include the “artisanal know-how and culture of baguette bread” on its list of Intangible Cultural Heritage.
The baguette, now a symbol of France around the world, has been a central part of the French diet for at least 100 years, and there are several myths about its origins.
One legend has it that the bakers of Napoleon Bonaparte came up with the elongated shape to make it easier for his troops to carry, while another posits that it was actually an Austrian baker named August Zang who invented the baguette.
These days a baguette – which means “wand” or “baton” – is sold for around €1 ($1.04) each. More than six billion are baked each year in France.
Made only with flour, water, salt and yeast, baguette dough must rest 15 to 20 hours at a temperature between 4 and 6 degrees Celcius (39 to 43 degrees Fahrenheit), according to the French Bakers Confederation, which fights to protect its market from industrial bakeries.
But if the ingredients are always the same, each bakery has its own subtle style, and every year there are nationwide competitions to find the best baguette in the land.
Algerian Rai music and Tunisia’s harissa condiment were also among this year’s contenders for recognition as intangible cultural heritage by UNESCO, which started deliberations Monday in Morocco.
The 2003 Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage aims to safeguard and raise awareness about the “intangible cultural heritage of the communities, groups and individuals concerned”.
“Intangible cultural heritage, transmitted from generation to generation, is constantly recreated by communities and groups in response to their environment, their interaction with nature and their history, and provides them with a sense of identity and continuity, thus promoting respect for cultural diversity and human creativity,” it says. (France24)