Cuisine as a World Heritage?

The New York Times reported yesterday that France has been staging a bid for the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) to recognize French cuisine as a world cultural landmark. This effort raises a lot of interesting questions about where food fits into our heritage and history. When you begin to look at the diversity of proposals put forward by various scholars and chefs, it becomes clear just how elusive the whole idea is of a fundamentally “French” cuisine (or, for that matter, any other culture’s cuisine). Certain individuals have advocated for recognizing products, others for techniques, and some believe the effort should honor farmers and agricultural practices. These ideas don’t even begin to address the myriad influences of other cultures and countries upon French cooking! What emerges is the clear sense that when you talk about protecting and celebrating “food culture,” what you are really talking about honoring is “culture.”

Mainly, I’d just like to direct your attention to the article, because it will get you thinking about how we value what we eat. In many ways, it sounds as though France is trying to inspire a national food-awakening: encouraging the pursuit of food careers, protecting longstanding traditions, and trying to formally recognize the importance of food to their culture. There are certainly a lot of parallels between France’s effort and some of the Slow Food USA initiatives here at home. Both the US Ark of Taste and the Renewing America’s Food Traditions (RAFT) program aim to save unique regional foods and the cultural knowledge that accompanies them. Recognizing the huge role that food has in our society is a lofty and important goal, and it will be interesting to see how France’s efforts are received.

Thanks for sharing