THERE may be a number of things on which Italy, Greece, Morocco and Spain find it difficult to agree. But they are of one mind that the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) should broaden its horizons to include the Mediterranean diet in the list of “intangible” heritage treasures that it is due to publish in November.

This new list is intended to complement the very tangible monuments and natural wonders that are recognised and protected by UNESCO in just the same spirit that cultural manifestations such as performing arts, oral traditions, rituals and festivals are now also recognised. The Italians have taken the lead in lobbying for recognition of the existence and recognisable character of the Mediterranean diet but in doing so they may not have helped their cause by giving as an example a plate of pasta accompanied by a generous red wine whereas the other countries might suggest other examples. In fact this bid for recognition does raise the question of whether there is such a thing as a four-country shared diet or whether it is more a matter of common ingredients that are presented in many different ways.

One of the conditions of UNESCO recognition is that anything given heritage status must be safeguarded and promoted by its country. In a time of fast and fattening food the classic Mediterranean diet needs all the support it can get.


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