I was very puzzled the other day to hear that UNESCO had elevated the humble French Stick – aka le baguette – to exalted cultural heritage status. Why I wondered when, for example, most sticks you routinely come across, particularly from supermarkets, are tasteless and tough and as insipid as other 'white bread'.
Just poor reporting! It turns out that what has been given the cultural accolade was the artisanal baking process rather than the product. This has been welcomed as another French example of intangible cultural heritage. As this is a concept largely unknown in the UK, perhaps because we have not signed up to the safeguarding convention, the lack of curiosity evident in the TV interview I saw, was perhaps inevitable, even though it was with a pair of French artisanal bakers from London.
The Times quotes Frédéric Comyn, a baker who won this year’s contest for the best baguette in Paris, saying that the Unesco status “gives us immense pride and puts the spotlight on artisanal craft and not industrial baking [and] a big step towards the good and the very good”. Exactement! Sustainability needs artisanal bread-making.
This is what UNESCO has to say. Allors, bon appetite, mais passer le fromage anglais s'il vous plaît.