by Marion Nestle
Dec 14 2022

Good news (we need some): Baguettes!

UNESCO, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, during the seventeenth session of the Intergovernmental Committee for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage has incribed on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity—ta da!—baguette bread.

The traditional production process entails 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. Unlike other loaves, the baguette is made with only four ingredients (flour, water, salt and leaven and/or yeast) from which each baker obtains a unique product. Baguettes require specific knowledge and techniques…They also generate modes of consumption and social practices that differentiate them from other types of bread…Their crisp crust and chewy texture result in a specific sensory experience.

The New York Times account points out that this designation comes in the midst of “economic upheavals that include rising prices and the widespread closing of the country’s rural bakeries.”

The decision captured more than the craft knowledge of making bread — it also honored a way of life that the thin crusty loaf has long symbolized and that recent economic upheavals have put under threat. UNESCO’s choice came as boulangeries in rural areas are vanishing, hammered by economic forces like the slow hollowing out of France’s villages, and as the economic crisis gripping Europe has pushed the baguette’s price higher than ever.

* The photo is of Salvador Dali’s Bust of a Woman at MOMA.


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