French baguette gets UNESCO’s heritage tag: What’s the story behind it?

A staple in France, the baguette has been voted to be included in United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation’s (UNESCO) ‘Intangible Cultural Heritage list. Director General Audrey Azoulay said, “This celebrates the French way of life: the baguette is a daily ritual, a structuring element of the meal, synonymous with sharing and conviviality.”

Joining a list that includes 600 other items, the baguette has a history that goes way back. Its evolution has more than one theory. Legend has it that the French Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte had ordered breads to be moulded into long and thin sticks so that his soldiers could carry them around easily in their pockets.

In 1898, the Paris Metro construction employed workers from all around France who used to get into fights quite often owing to their diverse backgrounds. Therefore, in order to outlaw knives, bakers were asked to make breads that could be easily torn rather than being cut into pieces.

In 1919, a law banned bakers to work from 10 pm to 4 am in order to improve their lives. The new reform gave bakers less time to prepare the traditional sourdough loaf for the morning and hence, according to some, the baguette was born which took only half an hour to bake in the oven.

Over the years, as wheat became cheaper, the baguette became more popular. In fact, its demand grew so much that a law limited its weight and length to 80 grammes and 40 cm, respectively.

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