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France's Baguette Is In Contention To Receive U.N. Recognition


We're going to shift our focus over to France and French bakers in particular who don't think the baguette has gotten its due. After all, biting into the perfectly baked loaf is more than a culinary delight. It's a tribute to all things French or so the French Bakers Association says. They want the baguette added to the U.N. list of cultural heritage products. And who better to explain all that is transcendent about the baguette than NPR's Eleanor Beardsley?

ELEANOR BEARDSLEY, BYLINE: The true origins are unknown, but legend has it that the baguette was invented by French bakers in the Napoleonic era so soldiers could carry it in their pockets. Two hundred years later, the baguette is still a symbol of French gastronomy. Parisians line up for their daily bread outside this bakery. Nicole Vidale is with her two granddaughters.

NICOLE VIDALE: (Speaking French).

BEARDSLEY: She says the baguette has been a part of her meals morning, noon and night since childhood. And she breaks off a crusty tip for each child to happily chew on.

VIDALE: (Speaking French).

BEARDSLEY: "That part even has a name," she says. "It's called the quignon." Now, bakers say the cultural treasure, crusty on the outside, soft and chewy on the inside, should join the list of protected intangible world heritage recipes and rituals alongside the making of Neapolitan pizza or Fado singing from Portugal. About 6 million baguettes are sold daily in France, but 30,000 bakeries have closed since the 1950s as supermarkets and industrially made loaves take over. A true baguette is a mix of four simple ingredients - flour, water, yeast, salt and plenty of time. Fermentation of the dough should last 15 to 20 hours.

AMARA SEDRAOUI: (Speaking French).

BEARDSLEY: Inside the bakery, boulangere or baker Amara Sedraoui says everything is done by hand. They bake fresh loaves 10 times daily, starting from 6 a.m. and sell between 400 and 600 baguettes a day. Kalid Feta is picking up two baguettes for his mother. He says she loves the bread, especially to mop up her homemade sauces.

KALID FETA: (Speaking French).

BEARDSLEY: "She's originally from Morocco, but she's completely adopted the baguette," he says. "I think wherever you come from, the French baguette is extraordinary." France's culture minister will make her recommendations in March. Eleanor Beardsley, NPR News, Paris.

(SOUNDBITE OF JACQUES PELLARIN'S "A LA MAISON") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Eleanor Beardsley began reporting from France for NPR in 2004 as a freelance journalist, following all aspects of French society, politics, economics, culture and gastronomy. Since then, she has steadily worked her way to becoming an integral part of the NPR Europe reporting team.