- Monday, April 27 2015
The inscription of the Mediterranean diet on the UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity List not only represents the recognition of its qualities as a healthy and balanced dietary model, but, above all, its immense cultural and social value. In Italy, as in Spain, Morocco and Portugal, the consumption of a meal bares great significance, much more profound than simple nutrition. Amongst the countries within the Mediterranean basin, food acts as a fundamental element in the construction of identity, both as an individual and within a group: “We are what we eat”, said Feuerbach. Sitting around a table and sharing meals together takes on a great significance, a ritual, that strengthens interpersonal relationships, a sense of belonging and social continuity of the individuals that make up a community. Meals are a time for story telling, passing down values, symbols and traditions from one generation to the next, strengthening relationships between those who posses knowledge and those who learn from this knowledge day after day.
Such moments of sharing, affirmation and reconstruction of identity within a community are channeled through local festivals, demonstrating the culture of the Mediterranean diet in its “rich and productive social relations” and “communal life experience”. In addition to proving to be a link between mankind and nature, local festivals and celebrations of the seasons and the local produce, are an occasion for citizens and people from outside the community to gather together. Italy’s festivals or sagre, like Spanish romerías , or Greek panigirias and mussem in Morocco, have become meeting grounds, an occasion to encounter different communities, while recognizing mutual social communal practices, rendering the act of being a good neighbor, peace and brotherhood between communities simple. Festivals take on the role of uniting different cultures together, easing social peace, the rediscovery of communal roots and the acknowledgement of ancient traditions.