The nation’s bid to put its beloved loaf on the list was successful after it submitted more than 200 letters from baguette fans to UNESCO
It may be just flour, water, salt and yeast baked into a loaf that, according to official standards, should weigh 250g and stretch 80cm. But call not the baguette a glorified bread stick, because to the French, there is perhaps nothing that better encapsulates the simple pleasures of life.
And now, the nation’s obsession has been officially recognised. On 30 November 2022, at the annual meeting for UNESCO’s Intergovernmental Committee for the Safeguarding of Intangible Cultural Heritage, the “artisanal know-how and culture of baguette bread” was added to the Intangible Cultural Heritage list.
As ubiquitous on formal tables as it is in casual street-side establishments, the elongated baked good has managed to find its place in every single meal of the day. It’s the canvas for smears of butter and jam in breakfast tartines. At lunch, it lines the counters at grab-and-go cafés, this time as the carrier for hams in jambon beurre sandwiches. Come dinner time, it’s the appetite-whetting bread course, usually enjoyed with dabs of butter.
According to France’s Fédération des Entrepreneurs de la Boulangerie, or the Federation of Bakery Entrepreneurs, six billion baguettes are sold in the country every year. But these numbers belie a shaky reality.
Artisanal bakeries around the country have been closing at a rapid pace since the 1970s following the emergence of large chains and supermarkets. The situation is especially dire in rural areas, which are already challenged with population decline. Adding further pressure on the bakers recently is the Russia-Ukraine war, which has increased the price of flour.
For fans of the baguette, this recognition is seen as a silver lining in tough times. More than 200 endorsements were submitted with France’s bid to UNESCO to put the beloved loaf on the list. It included children’s drawings, letters from bakers and even poems.
When the announcement was made, the French delegation present celebrated by waving baguettes in the air, and French president Emmanuel Macron tweeted that the baguette is “250 grams of magic and perfection in our daily lives.”