It is known all over the world : most people consider it as a typical attribute attached to what defines a French. The baguette, an oblong piece of bread made up of flour, salt and yeast (or baking powder), is an essential product on a French table. It is generally eaten to accompany dishes with gravy, cheese or used as a base in street food, such as sandwiches.
Most people don’t really know how this product was invented, even the French themselves, but three hypotheses, which are still debatable, could actually justify its existence.
The first possibility is that, an Austrian baker, in the 1830’s, brought his Viennese speciality from his home country to Paris. But critics say it is unlikely, as the baguette is not only soft from the inside like the Viennoiserie, but crispy and crusty on the outside.
The second possibility was that, during the Prussian War, Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte would try to find a way to feed the soldiers, preventing them from carrying heavy rounded loaves of bread called “miches”, which used to be unpractical to carry and bring to the soldiers. Once more, such a justification did not seem to be completely accurate according to cooking critics Mr Loïc Bienassis and Mr Steven Kaplan.
At last, the most possible explanation provided was that it was made while the Paris Metropolitan was being created and where local people from different reagions of France had to work together. These workers were equipped with knives to cut their food, but they were also used in many of their riots. Because of such an issue, the baguette was seen as a solution not to use knives while eating : people could cut it by hand.
The baguette was in very high demand from people of all social backgrounds, and it became part of the three daily meals.
With the confinement, lots of French people have explored many ways to make their own. Bakers use bread as a base to create a broad palette of various flavours to satisfy their hungry clients from all walks of life.
Written by Adélaïde Uppal
Note: This article was made with the use of reports from France Culture (gastronomy) and a report from France 2, released on January 23rd, 2021.