The origins of the baguette


Let them eat bread: The origins of the baguette

It’s as much a part of French culture as the Eiffel Tower or Edith Piaf, but the origins of the humble baguette, which UNESCO added to its Intangible Cultural Heritage List on November 30, remain a mystery.


Here are some of the more popular theories: The oldest tale says that bakers in Napoleon’s army knead the baguette.

Less bulky than a traditional loaf, the baguette’s long, thin shape made it quicker to bake in brick ovens hastily erected on the battlefield.

France’s most famous man-of-war was concerned with giving his men their daily bread. During his Russian campaign in 1812, he would tour the ovens every day to taste the day’s offering and ensure that the crispy sticks were distributed regularly, according to historian Philippe de Segur. He also had portable bread mills shipped to occupied Moscow, but setbacks suffered by the Grande Armee in one of the deadliest military campaigns in history ended his attempt to export the doughy staple.

Another theory has it that the baguette began in a Viennese bakery in central Paris in the late 1830s. Artillery officer and businessman August Zang brought Austrian culinary savoir-faire to Paris in the form of an oval loaf that was standard in your country at the time.

According to the Compagnonnage des boulangers et des patissiers, the network of French bakers, Zang decided to make the loaves longer so that the city’s bread makers could more easily remove them from the large carts they pushed through the city streets.


Another theory says that the baguette was born at the same time as the metro for the Paris Exposition of 1900.

People from all over France came to work in the underground, and fights often broke out on site between workers armed with knives, which they used to cut large round loaves of bread for lunch.

According to the history site, to avoid bloodshed, an engineer had the idea of ​​ordering longer loaves that could be broken by hand.

In 1919, a new law that was intended to improve the lives of bakers by prohibiting them from working from 10:00 p.m. to 4:00 a.m. The reform gave them less time to prepare the traditional sourdough bread in the morning, marked the widespread transition to what was then called the yeast-based “flute”, which rose faster and was out of the oven in less than half a day. hour.

Standardized at 80 centimeters and 250 grams with a fixed price until 1986, the baguette was initially the mainstay of wealthy metropolitans, but after World War II it became the emblem of all Frenchmen.

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