THE MEDITERRANEAN DIET: AN INTANGIBLE UNESCO WORLD-HERITAGE
The notion that consumption of wine and olive oil contributes to good health has been extensively discussed and recognised since (at the very latest) the famed French Paradox of 1992. But this has been known for thousands of years. In addition, the so- cial aspects of the Mediterranean lifestyle contribute substantially to the well-being of the people: the element of conviviality, gathering in large numbers at table with friends and with family, the preparation of meals from recipes that have been handed down – all in all a more ‘human’ rhythm of life, which allows more room for emotion and interpersonal relationships.
Shared mealtimes are such an important feature of the Mediterra- nean lifestyle that this is considered a fundamental aspect of cultural identity in the region. And when we speak of the Mediterranean region, it includes all countries where the olive tree flourishes – in this context, the ‘olive-tree border’ is a term often used.
UNESCO has designated the Mediterranean Diet as an intan- gible cultural heritage, recognising it as a particular way of living that is shared by all nations in the Mediterranean region. This includes dedicated protection of the traditions, rituals and skills connected with this style of life. And of course, traditional recipes and methods of food preparation are considered particu- larly important.
In the Mediterranean region, people cook with simple ingredients, whose flavours are presented in a straightforward and unadulterated fas- hion. The recipes that Grandmother handed down remain unaffected by the dictates of fashion, but rather reflect the changing seasons and the availability of ingredients. For the most part, these traditional dis- hes are vegetarian or vegan – so one could also call them ‘in tune with the times’... Here, the daily menu features a lot of vegetables, legumes, fresh fruit, nuts, seeds, sprouts and whole grains. Milk products such as cheeses and yoghurt are not consumed so frequently, and even fish is eaten in moderation. Red meat is a rarity, and when it does appear on the menu, it is served in very small portions. Olive oil is certainly the most important source of fats, and a glass of red wine at mealtimes is very welcome. Artisanally produced foodstuffs have long been at the core of Mediterranean nutritional choices. In this, the increasing use of sustainably produced provisions and the adoption of careful production techniques form an essential contribution to this society’s cultural, en- vironmental and organic identity.
Find out more on wine as part of the Mediterranean Diet.
Find out more on olive oil as part of the Mediterranean Diet.
Find out more on Mediterranean Diet as a way of life in the Alentejo.