The UNESCO world heritage lists, which celebrate sites ranging from the birthplace of Buddha to the Tower of London, are about to be livened up by an unusual new culinary entry: the Mediterranean diet.
Alongside crumbling castles and Greek temples, the UN is set to add a salad of tomato and mozzarella, topped off by a splash of virgin olive oil to its miscellany of global patrimony worth protecting.
The Mediterranean diet, with its mix of fresh fruit and vegetables, grilled fish and lashings of olive oil favored in Italy, Greece and Spain, faces a final vote in November for ranking on UNESCO’s lesser-known list of “intangible” cultural heritage, covering oral traditions, performing arts, social practices, rituals and festivals.
A plate of pasta washed down with a glass of wine could join the list of 178 not-to-be-missed cultural experiences including the tango, the polyphonic singing of the Aka Pygmies of central Africa, and Croatian lacemaking.
“This is a big success for our country, our dietary traditions and our culture,” Italian Agriculture Minister Giancarlo Galan said.
“It is a bit strange putting a diet on the list, and the first time they would do it, but it makes perfect sense. Not only is this culture, but it also makes you live longer and better,” said Rolando Manfredini, food safety officer for the Italian farmers’ lobby group Coldiretti.
Coldiretti said the Mediterranean diet meant Italian men were living to an average age of 78.6 and women to 84.1, far above the European average, and anyone sticking to the diet was 13 percent less likely to suffer from Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease and 9 percent less likely to get cancer.
While trying not to dampen Italy’s enthusiasm, a spokeswoman for UNESCO warned that no decision on new additions to its list would be made before a committee meeting in November.