It's on every French table, in every French kitchen and the French take it very (very) seriously.
In fact the baguette is so popular in France that the French even have their own set of habits involving one of the country's unofficial symbols.
And now the “baguette de tradition” — the original French baguette made, you guessed it, according to traditional methods, (rather than the average baguette you can pick up in any old supermarket) — could be about to start its journey towards Unesco glory.
In a meeting on Friday, Dominique Anract, France's “other” president — the head of the national confederation of baking and pastry — will try to win French President Emmanuel Macron round to the idea that the beloved baguette “tradition” deserves to be on the Unesco world heritage list.
“A baguette is the symbol of France, like the Eiffel Tower,” Anract told the food website Atabula. “I want to fight for world heritage status to protect the quality of the traditional baguette.”
“When I see the the growing dominance of French supermarkets and convenience stores in the sale of bread, I say to myself that we must act. Hence my desire to push for the addition of the traditional French baguette to Unesco's list of Intangible World Heritage.”
“Today, there are 33,000 artisan bakeries, employing 180,000 people, who serve bread all over France. This territorial network is unique throughout the world, we must not lose it,” he said.
Anract says he is furious about the quality of baguettes on offer in France, especially in supermarkets.
“When I see the quality of bread in supermarkets, it is impossible not to be indignant. The bread is frozen, it comes from who knows where, nothing is done according to the rules of the art [of breadmaking ].”
France's baguette “tradition” is made using only four ingredients: flour, yeast, salt and water, according to a 1993 government “bread decree”. That's opposed to the ordinary French baguette where the rules are less tight.
“This traditional baguette is part of the heritage of France. This decree makes it possible to codify with precision the imperatives of milling of its flour and its method of manufacture. It also helps the consumer identify the right craft product,” says the website for the French centre of research for baking.
“The traditional French baguette improves the image of the profession with consumers. It is now produced by most bakers,” says the site.
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But even though the recipe is very simple, Anract argues that a good baguette is all about “know-how”.
This is what the confederation of professionals wants to protect.
And the idea doesn't seem so far-fetched, on December 7th the Neopolitan art of pizza-making was added to the list of “Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity” and in 2010 Unesco awarded French cuisine the same honour.
But could France's baguette “tradition” be next? Anract knows it will be a long journey ( it took nine years before Naples's pizzas were recognised) but the rewards will be great.
“The path will be long, but the stakes are important, for artisan-bakers, for the French and for the image of our country.”
Photo: Glen Scarborough/Flickr