French Baguettes Butter Up UNESCO for Cultural Heritage Status

October 10, 2018 Updated: October 10, 2018

Fiercely proud French bakers, fearing their artisanal expertise is under threat from poor-quality, mass-produced bread, are pushing for the traditional French baguette to be recognized by UNESCO as a piece of intangible cultural heritage.

Man may not live by bread alone, but the iconic French stick is a mainstay of meals across the country, from homes to corner cafes to the elegant tables of the Élysée Presidential Palace.

Artisanal baker Mahmoud M’seddi should know.

His baguette was crowned winner at Paris’s most recent best baguette awards, earning him the right to supply the national symbol to President Emmanuel Macron and his distinguished guests.

But M’seddi and his fellow craftsmen say that traditional French bread is under threat from industrially-produced knock-offs, and now he is among those calling to have it inscribed in UNESCO’s lists of intangible cultural heritage to protect it.

The National Confederation of Bakeries and Patisseries has put together a proposal to have the baguette added to the list, which already includes the production of Neapolitan pizzas, Iranian and Turkish flatbread, and Arabic coffee.

Macron has already voiced his support for the idea, and now the Paris Town Hall is also on board, according to the assistant to the mayor in charge of commerce and craftsmanship, Olivia Polski.

What’s next? The procedure is a lengthy one, requiring the National Confederation of Bakeries and Patisseries to deliver an application to the Council of Paris, then to the Committee for Immaterial and Ethnological Heritage. After that, it is up to the Minister for Culture to present the application to UNESCO for consideration.

The aim of the UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage Lists is to protect and maintain cultural diversity in the face of globalization. They include oral traditions, performing arts, social practices, rituals, and methods of traditional craftsmanship.

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