Google celebrates the wand in an online exhibition
Although the baguette may enter Unesco’s intangible heritage next week, Google Arts & Culture is putting it in the spotlight with an online exhibition that tells its story, its heritage and a very French knowledge.
A very French baguette while waiting for a wave of the wand that we hope is magical. Google unveiled this Thursday a new online exhibition within its Arts & Culture space (at iOS, android and website) focused on a thin and curvaceous French woman known throughout the world.
Last year, France did an official request to register “knowledge and the culture of the baguette” in the intangible heritage of UNESCO. A file proudly defended by France’s artisan bakers and should get a response from the international organization next week.
While waiting to find out if the reputation of the baguette, the important star of the French image abroad, is enough, Google features it in an online exhibition rich in thousands of documents and called The baguette, a French icon.
“Bread, a building block of our civilization”
More than 2000 photos, paintings, iconography and other images are presented by 77 virtual and interactive sections which links both the controversial birth of the baguette, to his knowledge, bread around the world, to its representation in art, but also what it is to be a baker in 2022 or recipes to not throw away the hardening bread.
“Bread is a part of our civilization, perhaps the main one, that makes the West. The baguette is a modernized expression of it”, explains Vincent Ferniot, gastronomic journalist and editorial manager of the project. “It is important for us to give a voice to all those who still keep bread and baguettes alive, an absolute French tradition.” This is how he wants to pay tribute to “this know-how that we are the only ones to master” through a space that he hopes will be a reference on the subject.
Bread of the city dwellers, memories of the bakery next to the house that we go to almost every day, the baguette has a special history, “but speaks to each of us, evoking the childhood memories of the first purchase which parents often give up,” he added. Pierre Caessa, head of partnerships at Google Arts & Culture.
Created in 2011, Arts & Culture is a typically French area with international influence, creating these virtual exhibitions (more than 7 million available on all subjects, the world’s largest museum visited Street view, the most famous paintings digitized in gigapixels and explained, themes in countries such as artistic movements, etc.) within its online space. But the Parisian premises also welcome artists in residence who design physical experiences and for the site.
20,000 bakery jobs will be filled
All these memories and images of bread, Google and Vincent Ferniot want to transcribe them by presenting bakery trades, emblematic figures and famous chefs. “It’s like a real magazine special issue,” laughed the journalist. “We have done a real curation work with project partners (MUCEM, Intercereales, EKIP, Wheat and Bread Museum, National Bakery Confederation, FDMF, MOF, Editor’s note) to have quality archives, beautiful stories, anecdotes. We want this virtual exhibition to be a reference work on the baguette and French know-how about bread.” It is also a way to preserve the traditions of the territory and to keep them alive in 2022.
There are now only 35,000 bakeries left in France, less than one in each French town or village, whereas there were 55,000 in the 1970s. “The madness of the 1980s passed there”, laments Vincent Ferniot. “The boom in supermarket baguettes has hurt the industry.” Also the cost of the activity and, the profession is gradually decreasing. “Today, there are 20,000 jobs to be filled in the bakery. Obviously, we hope that the profiles we present of these young people who want to become Meilleur Ouvrier de France, of bakers who do it because of passion or these women who will shine there, vocations will be stimulated”, admits Vincent Ferniot.
And to attract the youngest, the exhibition also includes a video game where a cyclist must pick up four bread ingredients (water, salt, flour, yeast) and not one, as in the real recipe. Three levels are offered throughout Paris, Brittany and the countryside.
For Google Arts & Culture, putting bread and baguettes in the spotlight isn’t just a coincidence with an upcoming announcement. “We have been working on the subject for two years,” recalls Pierre Caessa. “This is our first exhibition dedicated to gastronomy. But it seems important to us.” Available in all languages found abroad, it has an air of crowing and national pride.
“The baguette is not only an art of living, a very French product. It is also a source of transmission, of sharing knowledge. A true craftsmanship and a piece of French identity”, recalls Vincent Ferniot, who passionately talking about bread and his love for it. He also proposed anti-waste recipes to show that the strength of the bread is weakened in every way. A legacy that, according to him, deserves more (re)recognition.
5 things you didn’t know about the baguette
- Only four ingredients are authorized to make traditional bread: flour, water, salt, yeast or sourdough.
- It sells in France an average of 190 baguettes per second (6 billion sold in 2021). A French person consumed 94g on average in 2018 compared to 900g after the Second World War.
- It was created to be worn in the bags of Napoleonic soldiers… or else designed to be cut by hand and thus avoid putting knives on the table during the construction of the Paris metro when the workers of the Auvergne and Breton origin increased the number of fights and stabbings.
- Its weight and dimensions are not fixed, except for the Competition for the best traditional baguette: 50cm long and 250g after cooking (all with +5% tolerance). But to take advantage of the Bakery designation, the bread must be prepared and baked on site, and most importantly not frozen.
- The wheat is 100% French in origin, as are all the ingredients used.