Baguettes, Paris rooftops and French wine festivals fight for Unesco recognition

The much-loved French baguette, Paris’ iconic zinc rooftops and La Percée du Vin Jaune, a Jura wine festival are all in the running to be put forward for consideration in UNESCO’s 2022 list of Intangible Cultural Heritage.

Baguettes, Paris rooftops and French wine festivals fight for Unesco recognition
Image: Philippe Ramakers / Pixabay

The French Minister of Culture Roselyne Bachelot has until mid-March 2021 to decide which item from the list should be put forward to President Emmanuel Macron and hopefully gain a place on the prestigious list, reports newspaper Le Figaro.

French bakers have been seeking UNESCO protection for their baguettes for the last few years, fearing that their quality has been drastically reduced.

In fact, in 2018, President Macron himself joined calls by bakers for France's traditional baguette to be recognised as one of the world's cultural treasures on UNESCO's list.

The traditional baguette has only four ingredients: flour, water, yeast and salt and nothing more.

If France's favourite bread is to be included in next year’s list, it will join foods such as the Neapolitan ‘Pizzaiuolo’ – the art of pizza making in Naples, Italy.

Image: Paris rooftops. Sergey Orpheum/Pixabay 

Paris’ iconic zinc rooftops are another item that Parisians, architects and historians are keen to see recognised by UNESCO. These silvery looking rooftops can be seen all over the city.

Many of these historic rooftops were clad with zinc back in 1817, but need to be replaced every 50 years. Today, there are only around 500 zinc roofers left in Paris who specialise in repairing the roofs, and many want them protected.

The last item on the list is La Percée du Vin Jauneis an annual wine festival, which takes place in the Jura department, located in the Bourgogne-Franche-Comté region in Eastern France, near the Jura Mountains.

The festival celebrates the piercing or tapping of the wine barrels, which hold the department’s famed yellow wine (vin jaune), which has spent over six years maturing in the oak barrels. 

The event is held in a different village in the region each year and involves open cellar tours, talks, competitions and tastings.

Vin Jaune. Image: Christoph Schütz /Pixabay 

Other wine festivals on the list include Los Caballos del Vino, the Wine Horses festival held in Caravaca de la Cruz, near Murcia in Spain.

Other things in France that have already been added to UNESCO's list of Intangible Cultural Heritage include skills related to perfume making in Pays de Grasse and the Carnival of Granville. 

Last year, the craftsmanship of mechanical watchmaking and the art of mechanics in France and Switzerland was added to UNESCO's list. 

READ ALSO: Ten French Unesco sites you haven't heard of but need to visit

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Le goûter: The importance of the afternoon snack in France

The French have developed an entire cultural tradition around the idea of an afternoon snack. It's called "Le goûter" and here's what you need to know about it.

Le goûter: The importance of the afternoon snack in France

With all those patisseries and viennoiseries tempting the tastebuds in high street boulangerie after boulangerie, there can be little wonder that France  – which takes food very seriously – has also invented the correct time to eat them.

Let us introduce you to the cultural tradition of le goûter – the noun of the verb “to taste”, and a cultural tradition in France dating back into the 19th century, perhaps even as far back as the Renaissance … allowing for the fact that people have snacked for centuries, whether or not it had a formal name. 

It refers to a very particular snack time, usually at around 4pm daily. This is the good news.

The bad news is that, officially, le goûter is reserved for children. This is why many schools, nurseries and holiday activity centres offer it and offices don’t. The idea is that, because the family evening meal is eaten relatively late, this mid-afternoon snack will keep les enfants from launching fridge raids, or bombarding their parents with shouts of, “j’ai faim!”.

Most adults, with their grown-up iron will-power, are expected to be able to resist temptation in the face of all that pastry, and live on their three set meals per day. Le grignotage – snacking between meals – is frowned on if you’re much older than your washing machine.

But, whisper it quietly, but just about everyone snacks (grignoter), anyway – a baguette that doesn’t have one end nibbled off in the time it takes to travel from boulanger to table isn’t a proper baguette. Besides, why should your children enjoy all the treats? 

We’re not saying ignore the nutritionists, but if you lead an active, reasonably healthy lifestyle, a bite to eat in the middle of the afternoon isn’t going to do any harm. So, if you want to join them, feel free.

What do you give for goûter 

It’s a relatively light snack – we’re not talking afternoon tea here. Think a couple of biscuits, a piece of cake, a pain au chocolat (or chocolatine, for right-thinking people in southwest France), piece of fruit, pain au lait, a croissant, yoghurt, compote, or a slice of bread slathered in Nutella.

Things might get a little more formal if friends and their children are round at the goûter hour – a pre-visit trip to the patisserie may be a good idea if you want to avoid scratching madly through the cupboards and don’t have time to create something tasty and homemade.

Not to be confused with

Une collation – adult snacking becomes socially acceptable when it’s not a snack but part of une collation served, for example, at the end of an event, or at a gathering of some kind. Expect, perhaps, a few small sandwiches with the crusts cut off, a few small pastries, coffee and water.

L’apéro – pre-dinner snacks, often featuring savoury bites such as charcuterie, olives, crisps and a few drinks, including alcoholic ones, as a warm up to the main meal event, or as part of an early evening gathering before people head off to a restaurant or home for their evening meal.

Un en-cas – this is the great adult snacking get-out. Although, in general, snacking for grown-ups is considered bad form, sometimes it has to be done. This is it. Call it un en-cas, pretend you’re too hungry to wait for the next meal, and you’ll probably get away with it.

Le goûter in action

Pour le goûter aujourd’hui, on a eu un gâteau – For snack today, we had some cake.

Veuillez fournir un goûter à votre enfant – Please provide an afternoon snack for your child.

J’ai faim ! Je peux avoir un goûter ? – I’m hungry! Can I have a snack?