The baking news sent France into a meme frenzy – and members of the French UNESCO delegation celebrated by raising baguettes in the air when 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 cuisine habits, with many French people stopping daily at bakeries to grab a warm loaf of bread before heading home for dinner.
The French bakery industry has been campaigning for a long time 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 was “a great recognition for our artisans and these unifying places that are our bakeries”.
Matin, midi et soir, la baguette de pain fait partie du quotidien des Français. This artisanal savoir-faire vient d’être inscrit au patrimoine immatériel de l’humanité par l’UNESCO. Belle reconnaissance pour nos artisans et ces lieux fédérateurs que sont nos boulangeries! 🥖🇫🇷 pic.twitter.com/dkAGPD5PiR
— Rima Abdul Malak (@RimaAbdulMalak) November 30, 2022
Olivia Grégoire, minister of small and medium-sized enterprises, trade and tourism, celebrated the decision as a milestone for France and its bakery. It pays tribute to ‘French savoir-vivre’, ‘our traditions of sharing and conviviality and above all the know-how of our artisan bakers’, she said.
French bakeries produce about 6 billion baguettes a year, according to French newspaper Le Monde. But across the country, especially in rural areas, bakeries have been disappearing at the rate of about 400 a year over the past few decades, leading to industry warnings that more needs to be done to protect baguette-making know-how.
“A baguette consists of very few ingredients – flour, water, salt, yeast – and yet each baguette is unique and the main ingredient every time is the skill of the baker,” said Dominique Anract, president of the National Confederation of French Bakeries and Patisserie after the decision .
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The French celebrated the decision and their love of baguettes.
Claire Dinghut, 26, French-American food and travel content creator, said via email: “The bagel is SUCH a core part of the French identity, so I’m really happy to know it’s been added to the World Heritage List.”
“I rarely eat a baguette outside of France, because eating a baguette without the French ‘ritual’ of going to the local (and favorite) bakery is just eating bread. Eating a bagel is so much more than that,” said Dinhout, who lives in London. “There’s nothing like the first tear off a fresh baguette. It’s perfect on its own, with a fat slab of salted butter, a sweet jam, a big chunk of cheese… The list goes on and on.”
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UNESCO recognizes traditions, crafts and objects as part of the intangible cultural heritage of humanity because of the “wealth of knowledge and skills that are transmitted” through them “from one generation to the next”.
In this case, the nomination drawn up by France highlights the fact that baguettes “generate ways of consumption and social practices that distinguish them from other types of bread, such as daily visits to bakeries to buy loaves and specific display racks to match their long form.”
“The bagel is consumed in many contexts, including during family meals, in restaurants, and in work and school cafeterias,” he adds.