French Bakers Want Baguettes Designated as a UNESCO Cultural Treasure

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Bakers in France have submitted an application to the UN for baguettes to be added to UNESCO’s listing of cultural treasures as they say the crafted bread loaf is being pushed off store shelves by frozen breadsticks. But can a loaf of bread really be designated as a cultural treasure?

Baguettes Are Uniquely French

Bakers in France believe that the baguette, a handcrafted loaf of bread, is so reflective of French culture that it needs to be protected and designated by UNESCO as a cultural treasure.

A baguette is a traditionally crafted loaf that is a mix of wheat flour, water, yeast, salt. And don’t forget that a pinch of savoir-faire by the baker.

Bakers in France say, after decades of being a part of daily life, baguettes–which are typically purchased from a local bakery–are now being pushed off store shelves in the country, replaced by frozen bread sticks which are made on giant assembly lines, CNN reported.

“There’s not one single secret to making a good traditional baguette,” said Mickael Reydellet, who is the owner of eight bakeries in France. “It requires time, a savoir-faire, the right way of baking, good flour without additives.”

In 1993, the French government made a decree dictating that traditional baguettes must be made only from the four classic ingredients of wheat flour, water yeast and salt. In addition, fermentation of the dough must last 15 to 20 hours at a temperature between 4 and 6 degrees Celsius.

Bakers Fight to Save Baguette

In an effort to save the baguette from extinction and automated baking, The Confederation of French Bakers has submitted an application to the UN for the baguette to be added to the UNESCO rankings of intangible treasures.

UNESCO has already recognized other methods of traditional craftsmanship, including over 1500 beers brewed in Belgium, and ancient techniques for making flatbreads in Iran and Pakistan. If those breads are cultural treasures, then why not the baguette?

What Is UNESCO and the Cultural Heritage Designation?

UNESCO stands for United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization. It was founded in 1945 as a specialized agency of the United Nations (UN) aimed at promoting world peace and security through international cooperation in education, the sciences and culture.

According to science direct, cultural heritage refers to “an expression of the ways of living developed by a community and passed on from generation to generation, including customs, practices, places, objects, artistic expressions, and values.”

Of the 1073 sites listed as world heritage sites by the United Nations, 43 are in France, according to France Just for You. The listings in France include historic towns, palaces, castles, religious buildings, forts, canals, and landscapes.

UNESCO defines cultural heritage in a variety of heritage categories. Under the designation of “cultural heritage,” UNESCO further divides them into the two main categories and three subcategories.

There is cultural heritage, natural heritage, and heritage in the event of armed conflicts.

Under cultural heritage we have tangible or intangible cultural heritage. Under tangible cultural heritage we have the following:

Movable cultural heritage: paintings, sculptures, coins, manuscripts.

Immovable cultural heritage: monuments, archaeological sites, etc.

Underwater cultural heritage: shipwrecks, underwater ruins and cities.

Under intangible cultural heritage we have: oral traditions, performing arts, and rituals.

Natural heritage refers to natural sites with cultural aspects such as cultural landscapes, physical, biological or geological formations.

What are the requirements for a UNESCO world heritage listing?

UNESCO world heritage designation‘s is only granted to things that are of outstanding universal value and meet at least one out of ten criteria which typically looks at six cultural and four national criteria.

1. Representing a masterpiece of human genius;

2. To exhibit an important interchange of human values, over a span of time or within a cultural area of the world, on developments in architecture or technology, monumental arts, town-planning or landscape design;

3. To bear a unique or at least exceptional testimony to a cultural tradition or to a civilization which is living or which has disappeared;

4. To be an outstanding example of a type of building, architectural or technological ensemble or landscape which illustrates (a) significant stage(s) in human history;

5. To be an outstanding example of a traditional human settlement, land-use, or sea-use which is representative of a culture (or cultures), or human interaction with the environment especially when it has become vulnerable under the impact of irreversible change;

6. To be directly or tangibly associated with events or living traditions, with ideas, or with beliefs, with artistic and literary works of outstanding universal significance. (The Committee considers that this criterion should preferably be used in conjunction with other criteria);

7. To contain superlative natural phenomena or areas of exceptional natural beauty and aesthetic importance;

8. To be outstanding examples representing major stages of earth’s history, including the record of life, significant ongoing geological processes in the development of landforms, or significant geomorphic or physiographic features;

9. To be outstanding examples representing significant ongoing ecological and biological processes in the evolution and development of terrestrial, fresh water, coastal and marine ecosystems and communities of plants and animals;

10. To contain the most important and significant natural habitats for in-situ conservation of biological diversity, including those containing threatened species of outstanding universal value from the point of view of science or conservation.