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France's famed baguettes seek UNESCO heritage title

The baguette is as much a French icon as the Eiffel Tower. During the COVID-19 lockdown, people could live without many things but not the essential bread. 

The crisp, golden delicacies sold in possibly every bakery in the country are aiming to snag the UN culture agency's intangible world heritage status.

The Confederation of French Bakers has submitted its application to France's culture ministry, which will choose in late March the country's final candidate for the UNESCO title.

One baker hoping for the baguette's victory is Parisian Mickael Reydellet, who owns eight bakeries in the country. Baskets teemed with baguettes in his Paris store, and customers queued to get their provisions.

"There's not one single secret to making a good traditional baguette," Reydellet said. "It requires a lot of time, a savoir-faire, the right way of baking, good flour without additives."

A French government decree released in 1993 put in place regulations in the production of "traditional" baguettes. These should be made by hand and contain the main ingredients - wheat flour, water, salt and yeast - without any additives.

The decree also requires a fermentation length of between 15 to 20 hours in a temperature between 4 to 6 degrees Celsius. The dough used should be fresh and not frozen.

Reydellet said the UNESCO recognition would be a boost for France's 33,000 bakers as they live through the difficult COVID-19 era.

"We speak a lot about restaurateurs, but bakers have also suffered a big decrease in activity," he said. "This title could comfort bakers and encourage a coming new generation that we need."

Around 6 million baguettes are sold everyday in France, the head of the French bakers' confederation Dominique Anract said, and the practice of buying the bread daily is ingrained in French culture.

But he said that this tradition is being threatened by the closures of bakeries - 30,000 stores selling baguettes have closed in France since the 1950s, meaning around 400 halt their operations in the country yearly.

"The first errand that we ask of a child is to go buy a baguette from a bakery," Anract said. "We owe it to ourselves to protect these habits, as well as these quality products so that our children or our grandchildren could later have the same pleasure."

(Source: Reuters) 

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