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The Mediterranean Diet

Earlier this week, UNESCO (United Nations) published a list of 200 Intangible Cultural Heritage practices and expressions, to help demonstrate and safeguard “the diversity of this heritage and raise awareness about its importance” (UNESCO speak). 47 of the listed cultural acts or ways of life were newly added to an existing previous list, with five of them being part of the Spanish culture or affecting Spain, including two which are more Mallorcan than Spanish: Castells (human towers) and the chant of the Sibil·la. The other three are falconry, Flamenco and the Mediterranean diet.

I already told you about castells before on a number of occasions and I shall tell you a bit more about the Sibil·lan chant anytime soon, with Christmas coming up any moment, but today, let me fill you in a bit about the ins and outs of the Mediterranean diet. Allow me to use the words which UNESCO uses in their appraisal of the benefits of Mediterranean diet:

“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.”

UNESCO is probably encouraged in their findings by the numerous studies and reports published over the past decade, attributing measurable medicinal and health benefits to people who predominantly live and eat by ways and means described in the UNESCO words above. Maybe you want to join in, by eating fish, olive oil, garlic and having a copa de vino tinto. You could always blame UNESCO.

The photo was taken in Vilafranca de Bonany, Mallorca, Baleares, Spain. The date: September 5th, 2010. The time was 12:36:22.

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