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History of the Baguette

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History of the Baguette

Middle Ages

History Of Bread In France: The BaguetteBy: Vikram SangarBy: 

When we think about bread, we often make an association with France. Many different varieties of bread, most notably, baguettes were invented in France. Baguettes are a French culture staple and if one is asked about French culture, images of baguettes will fill their mind. Although baguettes have been proven to have existed for hundreds of years, the word baguette, which means baton, only came into use during 1920. With changing laws, trends, and tastes, the lengths and sizes of baguettes have varied over the years, and some even reached 6 feet during the 1800s. Despite the fact that baguettes started off as being a main food source to the French, they are now an accompaniment to meals, whether it be during breakfast, lunch, or dinner. Some French citizens even complain that their day is not complete if they do not have a warm, toasted baguette. Today on the streets of France, one will see loads of people hustling and bustling, carrying none other than a baguette in their arms! Baguettes are truly a symbol of French culture.

Overview

In Canada

Are there any foods in Canadian culture which compare to the French baguette? Is bacon, maple syrup, or ketchup a "Canadian version" of the baguette? Yes, and no. In Canada we do not see tons of people walking down the streets with a certain type of food locked in their hands, as they do in France. However, there are foods that are commonly consumed by Canadians, like those mentioned. France and Canada are both two unique countries with rich histories, which make them incomparable. However, the baguette is a unique part of the French culture which differentiates it from other countries where such staple foods are not present.

Origins: Riots

Prior to the French Revolution, riots and protests were commonly made when there were shortages of bread. A notable case is the Fall of the Bastille on July 14, 1789. Peasants, whom would often consumed breads that were of poor quality and barely edible, suspected grain was being hoarded which lead to price increases in bread. After the government investigated, they found out this was indeed true. Eventually in 1793, the Convention (Fr. Govt.) released a statement saying that all bakers would be required to make one type of bread only; the baguette. Thus, the baguette was the Bread of Equality as the rich would no longer be the only ones who consumed high quality bread.

During this time period, middle and lower class citizens could not afford home ovens like the wealthy, and would send their dough to shops with wooden, coal burning ovens to be baked. This began the bakery trend. Nowadays, bakeries are found at almost every street corner in France, just like corner stores in Canada.

It is also argued that Napoleon Bonaparte contributed to the invention of the baguette. A common French story states that Napoleon required special long, slender loaves of bread to be made for his soldiers, so they would fit in to the pockets of their uniforms. These measurements are similar to the modern baguette. Thus, it is also possible that Napoleon left a legacy with his unique military bread.

Origins: Military

Flag of France

A woman carrying baguettes on her back in 1800s. Maids would often wait outside for the employers carrying their bread for that day

A bakery stove from the middle ages

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A French bakery with baguettes on the top shelf

A portrait of Napoleon Bonaparte, who is said to have contributed to the invention of the baguette


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