UN puts French baguette on list of intangible cultural heritage

The UN is adding the typical French baguette to the UN List of Intangible Cultural Heritage. The baguette thus joins other cultural heritage such as beer culture in Belgium, transhumance (or alpage, where cattle are taken to higher mountain pastures) in Austria, Italy and France or the typical Mediterranean food culture. The recognition of baguettes is a boost not only for traditional bakers but also for French farmers.

In late November, UNESCO experts met in Morocco. During this meeting, a number of traditions and traditional elements from different cultures were added to the List of Intangible Heritage, including the French baguette. The baguette, traditionally made with just flour, water, salt and yeast, earned UN recognition after the French Ministry of Culture earlier warned of the decline of traditional French bakeries. Audrey Azoulay, UN’s cultural agency chief, said the decision honored more than just bread; it recognized the “savoir-faire of artisan bakers” and “a daily ritual”.

But the UN’s recognition of the baguette is also indirectly a recognition of French agriculture, which grows the wheat used to make the baguette. “For me as a farmer, this is a real recognition. Because if the baguette is a French symbol, it is mainly thanks to the mobilisation of the whole sector,” says Sébastien Delva, French arable farmer in the region of Cambrai (Nord de France). “To have good wheat that brings quality flour further to make the baguettes, everything starts with the variety breeders. They try to provide us with modern varieties that are more resistant to diseases and meet the needs of processors. Secondly, it is a recognition of our profession as farmers, because we have been making efforts for many years to meet the various requirements, both in terms of wheat quality, with increased protein content, specific weight and other criteria taken into account; and in terms of the environment, with the reduction of phytosanitary products, the use of decision-support tools that allow us to better plan nitrogen application and other interventions. Finally, it also recognizes the processors, who supply quality flour to our artisan bakers who, thanks to their know-how, sublimate this flour to make a good baguette that the whole world envies us for.”

That bread, and more specifically baguettes, is deeply embedded in French culture is something Sébastien further confirms: “Bread is really an essential food for the French. I have often noticed during several trips abroad that we are always looking for quality bread, and that we often miss it the most during meals.”


Headerphoto: N i c o l a – CC BY 2.0

Author: Antoon

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