Among the many things that the French have given the world, their baguette — a mix of wheat flour, water, yeast, salt and a pinch of savoir-faire — has stood the test of time, and has become such an important part of the country’s culinary culture that it may soon join UNESCO’s listing of cultural treasures.
What is it?
If you have ever dined at a French restaurant, you would know baguettes are served both as appetizers as well as for the main course. They are long, thin loaves of French bread that complete and complement a meal. It is believed the word ‘baguette’ comes from the Italian word ‘bacchetta’, which means ‘baton’ — which is the baguette’s iconic shape.
Unfortunately, bakers say the traditional loaf — whose purchase from the local bakery has, for decades, been a ritual in French daily life — is being pushed off shop shelves, by frozen breadsticks made on giant assembly lines.
As such, the Confederation of French Bakers has submitted an application, for it to be added to the UN rankings of intangible treasures.
And while the French bread may get the recognition it deserves, let us also look at these other different forms of bread which are celebrated in other countries.
1. Bánh Mì (Vietnamese baguette)
For the uninitiated, ‘Bánh Mì’ in Vietnamese means ‘bread’, derived from ‘Bánh’ which refers to baked products. Much like the French baguette, it is a delicious, herb and veggie-filled sandwich that is a staple in many Vietnamese restaurants. It needs to be noted that Vietnam was colonised by the French for six decades, which is why there is a noticeable influence on Vietnamese food.
2. Bammy (Jamaica)
Bammy is typically a cassava-based flatbread from Jamaica. It is said that it comes from the Arawaks, who are Jamaica’s original inhabitants. The bread is made of cassava flour, salt, and water. It is then dried out for preservation and soaked in coconut milk, refried before consumption.
3. Focaccia (Italy)
This is a dimpled bread and is made by poking the dough before baking. It also has a lot of olive oil, coarse salt, and herbs like rosemary.
4. Cornbread (America)
While this bread is believed to come from native Americans, it has several variations — from basic ones with cornmeal, water, and salt, to ones with eggs, milk, and sugar.
5. Chapati/Roti (India)
This flatbread needs no introduction, not to Indians at least. It is made by kneading the wheat flour with water, salt, and oil. While it is known throughout the country, it is typically eaten in the northern parts of the country more, preferably with a side dish — curry, vegetable preparation, non-vegetarian delicacy, etc.
6. Cottage loaf (England)
This bread comes from southern England. It looks like the number ‘8’, in that the smaller loaf is placed on top and linked to the larger loaf at the bottom by pressing fingers through the center.
7. Lavash (Armenia)
This is an unleavened bread that is prepared in batches inside a stone oven. But interestingly, it is a key part of Armenian cuisine and culinary culture, and UNESCO has listed it as an Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.
8. Irish soda bread (Ireland)
As the name suggests, this bread uses baking soda as its leavening agent. It has a slightly-hard crust and a sour taste. By using baking soda instead of yeast, bakers are able to prepare the bread more quickly.
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