Imposters beware! After Belgium’s beers and Naples’ pizzas, the oh-so-French baguette may soon join the UNESCO world listing of cultural wonders.
France’s baguette bakers, backed by President Emmanuel Macron, have put in a bid to get their traditions and techniques – as Gallic as Gauloises cigarettes and the Eiffel Tower – added to the U.N. rankings of intangible treasures.
Supporters led by La Confédération Nationale de la Boulangerie-Pâtisserie Française (CNBPF) say the craft loaf is already being pushed off shop shelves, even in France, by frozen bread sticks made on giant assembly lines.
“If it continues like this, there’ll be no more bakeries left in France, even though they’re world famous,” says master baker Mahmoud M’seddi, whose baguettes won the annual best-in-France prize this year.
“We really need this (the UNESCO listing) to be able to protect this French know-how.”
The real thing, say supporters of the bid, is supposed to be sold at the bakery that made it or an affiliated business. The dough should not be frozen. Nothing should be added apart from the classic ingredients – flour, water, yeast and salt.
FLAT BREADS AND RITUALS
The bakers’ moment may come at the annual review meeting of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), scheduled for late November in Mauritius.
The UNESCO “intangible heritage” marker – meant to recognise oral traditions, performing arts, social practices, rituals and methods of traditional craftsmanship – already covers ancient methods of making flat breads in Iran, Kazakhstan and other countries.
The craft behind 1,500 or more beers brewed in Belgium has got the nod, as has the Neapolitan art of pizza twirling.
“There’s nothing more French than the baguette,” Parisian student Tiphaine Balanche said. “I have seen other countries try to reproduce it but no one can make it quite like in France. I think it’s one of our treasures. It’s great if we can preserve and protect it in France.”
Though, some say the first baguette was not actually created by a Frenchman. One tradition gives the honour to an Austrian artillery officer, August Zang, who went to Paris in the 1830s and opened up a viennoiserie bakery and shop, where the baguette-shaped bread he made was an instant smash-hit.
Others credit Napoleon’s bakers – or say it all started with a 1920 law that barred bakers from cranking up their ovens before 4 a.m. to curb night work.
To get fresh bread to breakfast tables, bakers used thinner, elongated dough shapes to cut cooking time. — Reuters