“The inscription of UNESCO Heritage Baguette is appalling regression”

Author of numerous works on bread, the historian Steven Kaplan regrets that a generic product is celebrated, already in loss of speed in the territory, creating according to him a confusion between breads which have nothing in common .

words collected by Léo Pajon

Bread is an American who talks about it best. Steven Kaplan, historian born in Brooklyn in 1943, fell in love with the emblematic product of French bakeries by tasting a bastard – a half -wing bread, shorter than the baguette – in the Luxembourg garden in 1962. This meeting seals his destiny. After decades of research and a bakery CAP, he is today the most erudite scientist on the subject. He is also a tireless defender of crisp and tasty crisp crusts, as he proves in his latest plea -shaped work, for bread (Fayard, 2020). We thought that the inscription on November 30 of the UNESCO heritage wand would fill it … Error. For the historian, it adds to the confusion, by unifying under a generic term very unequal quality products. And rehabilitates the industrial white wand, which most of the time has no taste interest.

Have you been surprised by the inscription of the wand as a UNESCO heritage?

No, because I have been the evolution of this dossier for many years carried by the National Confederation of French Bakery and Artisans Unions. These unions, a little loss of speed, first wanted to highlight the “traditional wand”. The traditional wand is not anything, it is defined by a decree of September 13, 1993 determining in particular the ingredients that can be used in its making. Since 1993, a baker who is preparing a tradition can no longer have recourse to a whole range of additives to cheat on taste and texture: for example we used ascorbic acid so that the dough is firmer, so pastilles Vitamin C to give a strip at the baguette! The decree saved the artisanal bakery, and brought the bread back to the path of taste.

One UNESCO does not register the “traditional baguette”, but the “bread wand” on the list of Intangible cultural heritage of humanity…

And it’s a big difference! UNESCO could not soften a specific product. By highlighting the wand, without more precision, it distinguishes an anchored know-how in the past. But it also legitimizes, under this generic term, the white wand of common consumption, of a generally very poor quality. Of the 6 billion baguettes that are consumed in France each year, there is an abyss between the traditional baguette, golden, crisp, often from a long fermentation, and the white – the most consumed – which is a product Paradoxically dull, lacking in seduction and taste … I understand that inscription causes jubilation among the French, and that we want to launch a triumph cocorico. But behind, we must see that it creates a terrible confusion between breads that have nothing in common. For me who campaigned for a long time for artisanal know-how, it is a appalling regression.

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