Belfast Telegraph

Tuesday 2 September 2014

Blaa wins EU's protected status

The humble Waterford blaa has risen to the ranks of champagne after being given new legal protection against imitators.

A ruling by the EU means the floury bread roll - which can be soft or crusty - can be called by its famous name only if made in the south eastern county.

Other delicacies already given protected geographical status against imposters by Brussels include Parma ham, Feta cheese and Cornish pasties.

More recently, Lough Neagh eels from Northern Ireland were inducted into the exclusive club.

The Waterford blaa reportedly dates back to the arrival in Ireland of French Huguenots escaping religious persecution during the 1690s.

The unusual name is said to have derived from the term "blaad", which the Huguenot bakers used to call leftover dough.

Another theory suggests it comes from the French word "blanc", meaning white.

Local legend has it that up to a third of the Waterford population eat a blaa every day.

Free from preservatives, the bun is best eaten by lunchtime while it is still fresh.

Its short shelf life has been blamed for its lack of popularity outside Waterford.

Brian Hickey, of Hickey's Bakery in Waterford, said there will a huge sense of pride around the city at the European honour for their native bun.

"People in Waterford have grown up on blaas," he said.

"They have just always been there. What people do now with a breakfast roll, people in Waterford have been doing with a blaa for hundreds of years.

"They are intrinsically linked to Waterford.

"If people from Waterford are going on a bus to a match in Thurles, as well as a six-pack they'll be making sure someone has a box of blaas."

The life-long baker added: "We're also known as the blaas - that's what people from Kilkenny would call us."

Hickey's was one of four bakeries in Waterford that came together four years ago to fight for protected status for the blaa, over fears that multi-national supermarkets would begin making the speciality bread.

After winning that battle, they now plan to sell them further afield, most likely frozen.

"At the moment they are only sold in Waterford," said Mr Hickey.

"They are huge here, there's about 15,000 sold every morning in the city, so we are going to try to sell them around Ireland now."

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