`UNESCO 'Cultural Heritage List' to Include Mediterranean Diet - Olive Oil Times

UNESCO 'Cultural Heritage List' to Include Mediterranean Diet

Aug. 23, 2010
Lucy Vivante

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UNESCO has rec­om­mended the Mediterranean Diet for a place on the orga­ni­za­tion’s Intangible Cultural Heritage List. The rat­i­fy­ing vote is expected to take place at the UN agen­cy’s 14 – 19 November meet­ing in Nairobi. Giancarlo Galan, the Italian Minister of Agriculture, in antic­i­pa­tion of a favor­able vote, today said, It is a huge suc­cess for our coun­try, our dietary tra­di­tions, and our cul­ture.“

The Mediterranean Diet is rich in olive oil, fruits and veg­eta­bles, grains, fish, and wine. The Intangible Cultural List was started in 2003 and now com­prises some 166 entries, includ­ing Croatian Lace Making, Argentinean Tango and Tibetan Opera. Readers are prob­a­bly more famil­iar with UNESCO’s activ­i­ties relat­ing to the con­ser­va­tion of phys­i­cal places such as Venice.

The ini­tia­tive to include the Mediterranean Diet on the Intangible Cultural Heritage List began four years ago when Italy, Spain, Greece, and Morocco put it forth. It did not meet UNESCO’s guide­lines and the ini­tia­tive was rejected. Last August the four coun­tries, with Italy coor­di­nat­ing, reworked their sub­mis­sion request.

Coldiretti, Italy’s agri­cul­tural spe­cial inter­est group and lobby, reports that the Mediterranean Diet has helped Italians in hav­ing the great­est longevity in Europe, with women liv­ing to the aver­age age of 84.1 and men to 78.6 years. The diet of younger Italians is not as good as that of its more elderly cit­i­zens, and receiv­ing this pres­ti­gious recog­ni­tion, should encour­age younger Italians to eat a more healthy diet, or so it is hoped

Coldiretti fur­ther reports that food and wine tourism, or enogas­tro­nomic tourism, is val­ued at 5 bil­lion euros a year. It is the only seg­ment of the tourism indus­try which con­tin­ues to grow, and this should fur­ther help this area. Of course, olive oil pro­duc­ers are hop­ing that con­sumers will pull very tan­gi­ble
bot­tles of olive oil off super­mar­ket shelves.

Galan praised employ­ees of the Ministry of Agriculture for their work. In an expan­sive mood, he sought to tie the Mediterranean Diet to the Roman Empire. Galan said, In read­ing a his­tory book I found a list of ingre­di­ents used by a French monastery at the begin­ning of the Middle Ages. On this list I found olive oil, dates, figs, almonds and pis­ta­chios. Pepper, cloves and cin­na­mon were also on the list. And, since at that time, not so dis­tant from the time the Romans ruled the Mediterranean, there were 30 casks of garum on the list. Could this be the intan­gi­ble cul­ture, which under­lies the Mediterranean Diet? And does the tomato belong on the diet? In brief, the Mediterranean world is so rich in his­tory and extra­or­di­nary civ­i­liza­tions based on agri­cul­ture, that there is noth­ing to do but thank UNESCO for rec­og­niz­ing the Mediterranean Diet on its list of World Heritage Intangibles.”

In related news, ear­lier this sum­mer, the Aurora Trust and the Italian Ministry of Culture reported on arche­o­log­i­cal dis­cov­er­ies off Zannone, one of the Pontine Islands. Four remark­ably well-pre­served ship­wrecks were dis­cov­ered. The Pontines were the ancient cross­roads for ships trav­el­ing between Italy, Spain, and North Africa. The four ships, dat­ing from between the 5th and 7th cen­turies BCE to the 1st cen­tury CE, had car­goes of amphorae with olive oil, wine, and garum, as well as bricks for build­ing.

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