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LIVING IN FRANCE

French dilemmas: Is your daily bread a normal baguette or the ‘tradition’ version?

It's so ingrained in the country's DNA that it is now seeking Unesco World Heritage status - but are people moving away from the basic baguette?

French dilemmas: Is your daily bread a normal baguette or the 'tradition' version?
What bread will it be? Photo: AFP

We asked readers of The Local whether they order a baguette or a tradition when they visit their local boulangerie, and the tradition scored a significant victory.

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But they're both long, thin sticks of bread, so what is the difference between the two?

Well as the name suggests, the tradition must be made using the traditional methods, while a baguette can include extra ingredients.

A tradition must be made using only flour, yeast, salt and water – the recipe specified in the French government's 'bread decree' of 1993.

It was at this point that the tradition was born, as bakers used the name to indicate that their loaf was made in the traditional manner, and does not contain any additives or preservatives.

The bread decree specifies that if any extra ingredients like grains, cereals or nuts – or any chemical additives or preservatives – are added, the resulting product cannot call itself a tradition.

Calling a bread that contains more than the specified four ingredients a tradition could be regarded as a 'misleading business practice' by inspectors from the Départementale de la Protection des Populations.

The reason for this is that a tradition, like products that have the artisan designation, tends to be more expensive, although its usually only a matter of an extra 10c or so.

The bread decree of 1993 is one of many ways that French bakers are seeking to protect the quality of their products from inferior imitations.

In 2017 one French baker launched an effort to get a 'tradition' mark for the croissant after complaining that too many boulangeries were buying in their croissants from factories.

According to Frederic Roy, from Nice, a traditional croissant should be made on the premises and use French butter and additive-free flour.

The move to give the baguette (and that's the baguette de tradition) Unesco status, which is currently being considered, is also a move to protect the quality of French bread products.

Launching the bid, Dominique Anract, head of the national federation of bakers, said: “A baguette is the symbol of France, like the Eiffel Tower. I want to fight for world heritage status to protect the quality of the traditional baguette.

 
“When I see the the growing dominance of French supermarkets and convenience stores in the sale of bread, I say to myself that we must act. Hence my desire to push for the addition of the traditional French baguette to Unesco's list of Intangible World Heritage.”
 
“Today, there are 33,000 artisan bakeries, employing 180,000 people, who serve bread all over France. This territorial network is unique throughout the world, we must not lose it.”

 

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FOOD & DRINK

Regional cuisine: What to eat and drink in central France

When travelling through France ordering local dishes and drinks is always a good bet, so we're taking a virtual roadtrip through France, highlighting some of the must-try regional specialities.

Regional cuisine: What to eat and drink in central France

This section of our roadtrip takes in the central part of France, from the tourist hotspots of the Alps and west coast seaside resorts through the less well know (but wonderful) central regions. 

The following is just our personal recommendation for some of the areas we’re passing through – please leave your suggestions and foodie tips in the comments box below.

Savoie/Haut-Savoie – Extremely popular for winter sports, the French Alps are stunning all year round and a summer trip for hiking, cycling or water sports is also highly recommended. The long, cold winters and the popularity of sporty holidays means that many Savoie specialities tend towards the hearty, filling, cheese-based and calorific – fondue, raclette and tartiflette.

What to order: It has to be fondue – but this is really a winter dish. Although some tourist spots sell it in summer it’s best enjoyed after a hard day hiking or skiing while watching the snow swirl around outside your window. The basics of a fondue are always the same – a big pot of melted cheese and some bread to dip in – but there are many varieties based on cheese type. We prefer a mixed-cheese option to get the full flavour spectrum, in the spirit of going local let’s order the Fondue Savoyard.

To drink: Wine! Old Swiss and French grannies will tell you that drinking water with fondue can be fatal, as it causes the cheese to solidify and stick in your stomach. As far as we know this has never been proven with science, but it’s definitely true that a crisp white wine is perfect to cut through the rich, fatty cheese.

Opt for a local vin jaune for the perfect partner.  

 
 
 
 
 
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Lyon – you might think that the whole of France is a foodie destination, but to French people Lyon is the ‘foodie capital’, and for that reason it’s a highly popular staycation destination with the French. Definitely check out the ‘bouchon’ restaurants which specialise in the best in local cuisine. 

What to order: Brioche de pralines rosé. There are so many delicious Lyon savoury specialities that it’s hard to pick one so we’ve gone for a sweet treat here. Pink pralines (nuts in a sugar coating) are the city’s signature sweet and while they’re great on their own, for an extra indulgent treat you can get brioche (sweet bread) studded with pink pralines. A slice (or two) with a pot of coffee is quite possibly the world’s best breakfast.

And to drink:  Beaujolais. Stick with us here, there’s more to beaujolais than the much-derided beaujolais nouveau (although that is getting better these days). The wine appellation extends almost to Lyon and is home to hundreds of small vineyards all making beautiful wines, many of whom are taking up production of vins bio (organic) or vins naturel.  

 
 
 
 
 
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READ ALSO: Bio, natural or biodynamic: 5 things to know about French organic wines

Auvergne – central France tends to get missed by many tourists, which is a real shame because much of it is stunning, as well as being quieter and cheaper than the coastal areas. The area is dotted with mountains and (extinct) volcanoes which give it a really dramatic character.

What to order: Auvergnat cuisine is quite meat-based, although the region is also known for good cheeses. To combine the two into one meal, we highly recommend aligot – a type of silky, creamy mashed potato with lots of stringy cheese stirred in – topped with a sausage. Have this at a restaurant with a glass or good wine or buy it from a street stall and go watch the town’s famous rugby team. Either way, the experience will be sublime.

And to drink: Volvic. Those volcanoes that we mentioned earlier give the name to one of France’s most famous mineral waters – Volvic. The water is apparently filtered through six layers of rock for five years, so give your liver a rest and sample some.

 
 
 
 
 
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Corrèze – moving west takes us into Corrèze, one of France’s most sparsely populated départements and one that even some French people would struggle to point to on a map. Transport is not all that easy unless you have a car but if it’s well worth the effort to visit this hidden but lovely corner of France.

What to order: Savoury dishes often feature mushrooms (especially ceps) and chestnuts and freshwater fish such as perch are also popular but we’re going to pick a dessert – clafoutis. The baked fruit flan is hugely popular across France but is traditional in Corrèze – in the classic form it’s made with cherries, but lots of different fruit options are available.

And to drink: They grow a lot of nuts in Corrèze and as well as eating them, they’re often made into digéstifs as well. If by this stage of the roadtrip you are feeling a little heavy, try an after-dinner liqueur to help you digest (although, despite the name scientists claim that a digéstif doesn’t actually help digestion).

 
 
 
 
 
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Île d’Oléron – We’ve now reached the west coast, and just off the shore of the Vendée are two beautiful islands. Île de Ré is known as the ‘French Hamptons’ because it’s such a popular holiday destination for rich Parisians, while its smaller brother Île d’Oléron is less high profile but equally lovely.

What to order: This area is the centre of France’s oyster production and if you take a trip around the island (or on the mainland) you will see hundreds of oyster beds. Virtually all local restaurants serve them, but you’ll also see them piled high at markets, where the stallholders will shuck them for you if you’re afraid of losing a finger in the process.

And to drink: The island is known for its white wines which pair perfectly with oysters. Stop off at the market for a quick glass (and an oyster or two) when you’ve finished your shopping or buy a bottle, plus a platter of oysters and have a picnic. 

 
 
 
 
 
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Head to our Food & Drink section to find guides to the regional specialities of southern and northern France.

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