The Baguette is one of the symbols of French culture, with worlwide popularity. Here is its history…

Originally consumed by aristocrats

To understand the origin of the baguette, you have to go back to 1830, a date which coincides with the arrival of Viennese bread in France: a bread made from brewer’s yeast and steamed, originally consumed only by aristocrats because of taxes on white bread. When these taxes disappeared, Viennese bread gradually became more democratic and the eating habits of citizens evolved: the composition changed and Viennese bread was transformed into bread for workers. Parisians and the French quickly adopt it and buy it every day because of its low weight and the fact that it does not keep well. Its shape is getting longer and longer, to such an extent that it must be left to rest in wicker baskets intended to preserve its oblong shape, hence the symbolic name of baguette !

History of the French baguette
The baguette, symbol of France – Copyright Elisabeth Perotin

A worldwide popularity

Being the only bread in the world to have this shape, the baguette immediately aroused the curiosity of foreign travelers and its popularity grew worldwide. After a brief return of black bread during the First World War, the baguette returned to Parisians in the 1920s, but it was mainly in the 1930s that it reached its peak due to its quality and consumption. After the Second World War, French bakeries were modernized: the industrialization of the baguette and mass production led to a new French-style bread-making model that was similar to the Anglo-Saxon model.

Birth of the « Jambon-Beurre »

In 1967, restaurant vouchers arrived in France and bakeries evolved. At that time, Parisian employees no longer returned home for lunch and ceased to bring it to work ready-made, so they returned to bakeries for their meals: what was first considered an accompaniment became a dish to in its own right and it was at this time that the famous « Jambon-Beurre » (ham and butter), also called Parisian sandwich, was born. Despite such an evolution, the consumption of bread decreased to such an extent that the baguette went from 300 to 250 g: bakers went through a serious crisis and mills began to disappear.

The symbol of the Frenchman

In the 1980s, a small revolution upset the world of bakeries: the arrival of frozen raw dough and the control of delayed fermentation. These techniques make it possible to export frozen dough at the lowest price and in large quantities to countries that do not have the means to train bakers. It was from the First World War that a real image was born around the baguette. The characteristics of this bread are indeed reminiscent of those of the French: simplicity and originality of the way of life. The baguette then becomes the symbol of the Frenchman who goes to his neighborhood bakery every day, buys his baguette and brings it home under his arm, nibbling a small piece of it.

And if you want to try to make your own baguette at home as if you had bought it in France, we recommend this book by Katie Rosenhouse :

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