Wolfgang Herrlinger, the proud proprietor of a guest house in Bath that claimed this year’s best UK Bed and Breakfast award, must have known he was on to something. The 58-year-old German attributed his victory to the four types of home-made German bread he bakes every morning for guests. Now German bakers are asking for their expertise to be recognised by the UN cultural organisation, Unesco, as an “intangible cultural heritage”, alongside such Argentina’s tango and carpet-weaving in south-west Iran.
The initiative comes in the nick of time: about 500 bakeries closed in Germany last year, and bakers are having problems finding apprentices for a trade which entails constant early rising. But the boom in demand for organic food, which began in Germany more than a decade ago, has helped purveyors of traditionally made bread to stage a comeback.
Germany has possibly the most diverse range of breads in the world: spiced bread, almond bread, onion bread, apple bread, the choice is endless … about 3,000 different sorts have been logged so far. One reason is because Germany was once made up of small principalities which used bread as a form of identity. Many types survived or have been rediscovered. Peter Becker, president of the German Bakers’ Federation, says such diversity and the fact that bread is made according to recipes passed down from one generation to the next are the key elements behind the Unesco bid. “We take pride in our products,” he says.