The Baguette Was Just Declared an Important Cultural Legacy by UNESCO
If there's one food that's emblematic of France, it's the baguette. Made with just flour, water, salt, and yeast, the simple loaf of crusty bread has been a staple of French life for centuries—so much so that the United Nations officially classified it as an integral part of humanity's cultural heritage.
On Nov. 30, UNESCO, the U.N.'s agency for culture, added the "artisanal know-how and culture of baguette bread" to its list of Intangible Cultural Heritage, which consists of approximately 600 traditions from more than 130 countries. According to the agency, cultural heritage includes "traditions or living expressions inherited from our ancestors and passed on to our descendants."
As highlighted in France's drafted nomination, baguettes differ from other types of bread in that they have their own unique social practices and consumption methods. This includes daily bakery visits and the use of special display racks that fit the bread's signature long shape.
In terms of the production process, aspiring bakers will undergo work-based training that blends school courses and an apprenticeship in a bakery, which is designed to equip them with the "necessary knowledge of the ingredients, tools and process." Although bread consumption has decreased over time, French bakeries still sell more than six billion baguettes every year.
According to Reuters, Audrey Azoulay, UNESCO's director-general, said the baguette's newly minted status "celebrates the French way of life: the baguette is a daily ritual, a structuring element of the meal, synonymous with sharing and conviviality," adding, "It is important that these skills and social habits continue to exist in the future."
The decision to protect the iconic French bread came after France's cultural ministry called attention to the "continuous decline" in the number of traditional bakeries, noting that 400 have closed every year over the the past 50 years, according to the Associated Press.
To help the French "better connect with their heritage," the country's government will create an artisanal baguette day, called "Open Bakehouse Day."
Aside from the French baguette, other culinary traditions on UNESCO's list of Intangible Cultural Heritage include traditional Chinese tea-making practices, the art of Neapolitan pizza, and the making of kimchi.