The iconic baguette, with its crisp crust and soft interior, is an emblem of everyday life in France. On Wednesday, it was officially recognised by UNESCO as an "intangible heritage of humanity."
More precisely, it is the artisanal know-how and the culture of the baguette that has been distinguished by the UN cultural body, which honours – above all – the traditions to be safeguarded more than the products themselves. Some other culinary items on the UNESCO list are Neapolitan pizza, Arabic coffee, Mexican cuisine and Malawi nsima.
Every day, 12 million French consumers push open the door of a bakery and more than six billion baguettes leave the bakeries each year. Going to buy bread is a real social and convivial habit that gives rhythm to their lives.
“This is a recognition for the community of artisan bakers. (…) A baguette is flour, water, salt, yeast and the craftsman’s know-how,” Dominique Anract, president of the National Confederation of French Bakeries and Pastry Shops, said in a statement.
Immortalised in films and advertisements, it is nevertheless a relatively recent product, appearing in Paris at the beginning of the 20th century.
The news will be a relief for a sector which stands to lose a great deal from this year's energy crisis, with many bakeries having to shut due to exorbitant energy bills.
In 1970, there were some 55,000 artisanal bakeries (one bakery for every 790 inhabitants) compared with 35,000 today (one for every 2,000 inhabitants), i.e. an average of 400 bakeries have disappeared every year for the past 50 years.
The decision to nominate the baguette de pain was made in 2021 by France, which preferred it to the zinc roofs of Paris and a Jura wine festival. This recognition is particularly important in view of the threats to this know-how, such as industrialisation and the decline in the number of shops, especially in rural communities.
President Emmanuel Macron had lent his support to the cause, describing the baguette as "250 grams of magic and perfection."