Baguette chosen as French candidate for Unesco recognition

It won over Paris’ zinc-plated rooftops and the annual Arbois wine festival in the Jura

27 March 2021
By Natasha Dangoor

France has chosen to submit the baguette as a candidate for a place on Unesco’s 2022 List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. 

It was picked from a choice of three, including Paris’ zinc-plated rooftops and the annual Arbois wine festival in Jura (Bourgogne-Franche-Comté).

The choice was made by France’s Minister of Culture Roselyne Bachelot, newspaper Le Parisien reported

“If this bid is successful with Unesco, it will help to make people aware that a food practice that is a part of everyday life, shared by a majority of people and taken for granted, constitutes a part of our heritage in its own right,” a statement by the Ministry of Culture reads. 

Ms Bachelot will now have to present her choice to President Emmanuel Macron. If accepted, it will then be presented to the Unesco Committee with a view to its inclusion on the list.

Unesco will not announce its decision before Autumn 2022, Le Parisien reported.

Every year, there are around 100 new additions to the list from around the world.

It aims to protect and raise awareness of cultural heritage that cannot be defined by a single place or item.

It can include, for example, clothes, food, festivals, craft traditions, rare languages, and songs.

Other French heritages already on the list are the “gastronomic meal of the French”, added in 2010, and the “skills related to perfume in Pays de Grasse”, added in 2018.

See a full list here.

In France, six billion baguettes are sold every year, equating to half a baguette per person every day, bakers’ union the Confédération Nationale de la Boulangerie-Pâtisserie Française states.

“It would be a good thing to protect our baguettes, our know-how,” artisan baker Jean-Yves Boullier said in an interview with France 24 in February.

“At least let them recognise the French baguette as a unique product that is typically French, and something other countries can't make," he said.

The Ministry of Culture noted in its statement that the number of bakeries in France is decreasing, especially in rural communities.

“In 1970 there were 55,000 artisanal bakeries (one for every 790 people) against 35,000 today (one for every 2,000 people). This is in a large part due to the impact of industrially produced baguettes,” the statement reads.

Baguettes in France are protected under a national law called the Décret Pain, introduced in 1993. Under this, traditional baguettes have to be made on the premises where they are sold and can only be made with four ingredients: wheat flour, water, salt and yeast. 

They cannot be frozen at any stage or contain additives or preservatives, which also means they go stale within 24 hours. 

The origins of the French baguette are not clear and there are many different theories as to why it was created. 

One theory is that they were created under Napoleon III, supposedly asked his bakers to find an alternative shape to the classic loaf so that the bread could be easily transported by his soldiers in their trousers or boots.

Read about the other two possible origins in our article here: Why is placing bread upside-down bad luck in France?

Read more:

Seven French expressions about bread

All hail the givers of our daily bread

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