Friday, 19 November 2010

Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity (Πολιτιστική Κληρονομιά)

The Mediterranean diet has been safeguarded!

The recently convened (15-19 November) UNESCO INTERGOVERNMENTAL COMMITTEE FOR THE SAFEGUARDING OF THE INTANGIBLE CULTURAL HERITAGE made the following decisions at the Fifth session, in Nairobi, Kenya:

The Committee
1. Takes note that Spain, Greece, Italy and Morocco have nominated the Mediterranean diet for inscription on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity, described as follows:
The Mediterranean diet constitutes a set of skills, knowledge, practices and traditions ranging from the landscape to the table, including the crops, harvesting, fishing, conservation, processing, preparation and, particularly, consumption of food. The Mediterranean diet is characterized by a nutritional model that has remained constant over time and space, consisting mainly of olive oil, cereals, fresh or dried fruit and vegetables, a moderate amount of fish, dairy and meat, and many condiments and spices, all accompanied by wine or infusions, always respecting beliefs of each community. However, the Mediterranean diet (from the Greek diaita, or way of life) encompasses more than just food. It promotes social interaction, since communal meals are the cornerstone of social customs and festive events. It has given rise to a considerable body of knowledge, songs, maxims, tales and legends. The system is rooted in respect for the territory and biodiversity, and ensures the conservation and development of traditional activities and crafts linked to fishing and farming in the Mediterranean communities which Soria in Spain, Koroni in Greece, Cilento in Italy and Chefchaouen in Morocco are examples. Women play a particularly vital role in the transmission of expertise, as well as knowledge of rituals, traditional gestures and celebrations, and the safeguarding of techniques.
2. Decides that, from the information provided in nomination file No. 00394, the Mediterranean diet satisfies the criteria for inscription on the Representative List, as follows:
R.1: The Mediterranean diet is a set of traditional practices, knowledge and skills passed on from generation to generation and providing a sense of belonging and continuity to the concerned communities;
R.2: Its inscription on the Representative List could give broader visibility to the diversity of intangible cultural heritage and foster intercultural dialogue at regional and international levels;
R.3: The nomination describes a series of safeguarding efforts undertaken in each country, together with a plan for transnational measures aimed at ensuring transmission to younger generations and promoting awareness of the Mediterranean diet;
R.4: The nomination is the result of close cooperation of official entities in the four States, supported by the active participation of communities, and it includes evidence of the latters’ free, prior and informed consent;
R.5: The Mediterranean diet has been included in inventories of intangible cultural heritage in the four States concerned and will be included in a transnational inventory of the Mediterranean that is underway.
3. Inscribes the Mediterranean diet on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.

The same committee also included the gastronomic meal of the French on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity:

"The gastronomic meal of the French is a customary social practice for celebrating important moments in the lives of individuals and groups, such as births, weddings, birthdays, anniversaries, achievements and reunions. It is a festive meal bringing people together for an occasion to enjoy the art of good eating and drinking. The gastronomic meal emphasizes togetherness, the pleasure of taste, and the balance between human beings and the products of nature. Important elements include the careful selection of dishes from a constantly growing repertoire of recipes; the purchase of good, preferably local products whose flavours go well together; the pairing of food with wine; the setting of a beautiful table; and specific actions during consumption, such as smelling and tasting items at the table. The gastronomic meal should respect a fixed structure, commencing with an apéritif (drinks before the meal) and ending with liqueurs, containing in between at least four successive courses, namely a starter, fish and/or meat with vegetables, cheese and dessert. Individuals called gastronomes who possess deep knowledge of the tradition and preserve its memory watch over the living practice of the rites, thus contributing to their oral and/or written transmission, in particular to younger generations. The gastronomic meal draws circles of family and friends closer together and, more generally, strengthens social ties."

Apart from the words in bold in the above text (which differ in terms of the order and range of dishes served in each culture), it should be noted that it isn't ONLY the FRENCH gastronomic meal that encompasses these ideas. Why UNESCO couldn't automatically say at the same convention that all world cuisines are an intangilble heritage of humanity is a mystery. All well-known cuisines in the world encompass the same ideas, not forgetting the fact that all those well-known cuisines have probably influenced one another in some way. To claim otherwise is simply elitist prattle. 

In any case, I was pleased to know that not all the French think in the same way as UNESCO...

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