The U.N. Names the French Baguette an Item of ‘Intangible Cultural Heritage’

The long, crusty bread 'celebrates the French way of life,' says UNESCO chief Audrey Azoulay.

December 02, 2022

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Photo by: Alexander Spatari/Getty Images

Alexander Spatari/Getty Images

Is the French baguette worthy of a spot on the United Nation’s “Intangible Cultural Heritage” list? Mais oui! It seems it is!

UNESCO’s Intergovernmental Committee for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage has just added France’s “artisanal know-how and culture of baguette bread” to its “Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.” The baguette joins only 677 other items from 140 countries, including 48 added this year, on the U.N.’s Intangible Cultural Heritage lists.

The baguette “celebrates the French way of life,” UNESCO chief Audrey Azoulay tells the press. “The baguette is a daily ritual, a structuring element of the meal, synonymous with sharing and conviviality. It is important that these skills and social habits continue to exist in the future.”

The baguette, the long, skinny and deliciously toothsome loaf that is France’s most popular bread type, is made using only four ingredients — flour, water, salt and leaven/yeast — according to a traditional process that includes “weighing and mixing the ingredients, kneading, fermentation, dividing, relaxing, manually shaping, second fermentation, marking the dough with shallow cuts (the baker’s signature) and baking,” the U.N. notes on its website.

Baked in small batches throughout the day, baguettes “also generate modes of consumption and social practices that differentiate them from other types of bread, such as daily visits to bakeries to purchase the loaves and specific display racks to match their long shape,” the U.N. observes. “Their crisp crust and chewy texture result in a specific sensory experience.”

The French government celebrated the news. “250 grams of magic and perfection in our daily lives. A French way of life,” President Emmanuel Macron tweeted. “:We had been fighting for years with bakers and the world of gastronomy for its recognition. The baguette is now a UNESCO intangible heritage!”

French bakers also expressed satisfaction with the honorable designation. ”It is a recognition for the community of artisanal bakers and patisserie chefs,” Dominique Anract, president of bakeries federation, says in a statement. “The baguette is flour, water, salt and yeast – and the savoir-faire of the artisan.”

The baguette joins other food items on the Intangible Cultural Heritage list, which UNESCO, the U.N.’s cultural body, says celebrates “traditions or living expressions inherited from our ancestors and passed on to our descendants.” They include Belgian beer, Neapolitan pizza, kimchi, lavash and a Malawian porridge called nsima.

Also just added to the list were the chili pepper paste seasoning harissa along with its “knowledge, skills and culinary and social practices,” which UNESCO called “an integral part of domestic provisions and the daily culinary and food traditions of Tunisian society,” the knowledge of Cuban light rum masters and China’s traditional tea processing techniques and social practices.

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