How Napoleon Armed His Soldiers with Baguettes

© Jim Franco Photography
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When it comes to an explanation for a baguette's elongated shape, legends abound—including one involving Napoleon.

In this series, we reveal the secrets, histories and quirky bits of trivia behind your favorite foods.

In France, the baguette is sacred. There's a proper way to carry a baguette (under one's arm) and a right way to eat it (breaking off the heel, or le quignon, to snack on during the walk home from the bakery). Baguettes are even protected by law: The Bread Decree of 1993 mandates that they must be made on the same premises where they're sold, may never be frozen, and must contain only flour, water, yeast, and salt.

When it comes to an explanation for the baguette's elongated shape, legends abound. Some speculate that baguettes first became popular when a 1920 Parisian law forbade bakers from working before 4 a.m., which meant they didn't have enough time to prepare thick, round loaves. Long, thin loaves cooked quickly, however, and could be ready for sale when the bakery doors opened.

Another theory states that Napoleon Bonaparte not only inspired a psychological complex, but also the baguette's shape. The story goes that Napoleon requested long loaves so that his soldiers could more easily carry their bread into battle—in the legs of their trousers.

There are many jokes to be made here, but we'll just leave you with the most obvious one: Hey Napoleon, is that a baguette in your pants, or are you just happy to see us?

Related: How to Make Bread
How to Bring Bread Back from the Dead
Recipes for a French Picnic

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