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Best Thing Since Sliced Bread

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Have you ever imagined that one day, instead of a regular bread and jam, you would be having a UNESCO world treasure for breakfast?

The French National Confederation of Baking and Pastry (NCBP) wants the traditional French baguette to be officially recognised as a cultural treasure by UNESCO. Now, with the support of their president Emmanuel Macron, French bakers officially began the campaign to join the list of Unesco Intangible Cultural Heritage.

Each year, around 6 billions of baguettes are produced in France. There are around 33.000 artisan bakeries across the country. However, Dominique Anract, the president of the NCBP, fears the spread of poor quality bread. “When I see the growing dominance of French supermarkets and convenience stores in the sale of bread, I say to myself that we must act,” – he said.

It is not only the name and the shape that Anract wants to protect but also the recipe and the know-how of French bakers. The are many variations of baguette – strings (a thinner version), with grains, ordinary baguette, or a demi-baguette (a shorter version). But only the traditional baguette recipe must include those ingredients only: flour, yeast, salt and water.

To French people, the baguette is not just a slice of bread. It is a symbol of France, “like the Eiffel Tower,” – added Mr Anract. It is famous all over the world. Just remember the cover of The Economist (Jan. 05-13.2013), with Barack Obama and two baguettes tucked under his arms.

Mr Macron explained that the loaf is part of “the daily life of the French, in the morning, at midday and in the evening. It’s not a matter of beliefs; everyone has it.” He is 100 percent behind the NCBP bid to the UN agency: “I know our bakers,” – he said. “They saw that the Neapolitans managed to have their pizza recognised as part of world heritage, so they said, ‘Why not the baguette?’ And they’re right.”

Recently, the Neapolitans declared victory when they finally succeeded in getting their pizza classed on UNESCO’s world heritage list. It took them almost ten years, an intense lobbying campaign and a petition signed by more than two million Italians. But eventually, they got there.

Intangible Heritage List already includes French gastronomic cuisine, beer culture in Belgium and a Kimjang – a collective practice of making and sharing kimchi in South Korea. The French traditional baguette deserves to be on that list – it is envied in the whole world, as Mr Macron declared. “We must preserve its excellence and our expertise, and it is for this reason that it should be heritage-listed,” he said.

Vive la Republique! Vive la baguette!

PS: Le Petit Breton Artisan Crêperie in Drumcondra is one of the few places in Dublin where you can get an authentic “baguette tradition”, for 3€. Don’t be late, they are often sold out by 4 pm!

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