More than just a place to eat, many French country bistros offer lodgings and sell local produce. Typically with longer hours than a restaurant, some cook and drop off lunch to schools or deliver bread. But the transactions of greatest value are the social ones. Sadly, rural bistros have been declining rapidly since 1945. But, champions of the bistro are stepping up, including Alain Fontaine, chef and president of an organization fighting to protect bistros. Fontaine has sought to get the bistro listed on UNESCO’s Intangible Cultural Heritage list, which protects invaluable cultural practices worldwide. “Bistros are places of life, places of exchanges and very clearly make up a part of our French DNA,” he says. “We need to ensure their influence and survival.” Due to his efforts, bistros are now on the cultural heritage list. As young people step up to run these cultural institutions, they are rethinking the role of the bistro to include more community functions like serving as post office, grocery store, lottery outlet and more.

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