Mediterranean Diet May Receive U.N. Cultural Heritage Protection

A seaside meal in Spain. UNESCO May give this meal international protection. (Photo: Reuters Pictures).

Shove over, Angkor Wat! Scooch down, Acropolis! Give way, Great Pyramid at Giza!

It's time to make room for a new cultural landmark that needs U.N. protection: grilled fish with olive oil!

That's right: Italy is pushing a proposal to have the Mediterranean Diet—characterized by fresh fruits and vegetables, grilled lean meats, and olive oil—as an "intangible" element of world heritage that needs protection.

Italy was joined by Morocco, Spain and Greece when it first attempted to protect its culinary heritage four years ago. While that initial try fizzled, the Italian proposal is now up for a final vote in November to join the UNESCO list.

If approved, the food of the Romans, the Greeks and Fabio would join Sicilian Puppet Theater and the Tango on the intangible heritage lists.

So why would pasta, grilled fish and a glass of wine need UNESCO's protection?

Italian cultural officials say that younger Italians are moving away from the Mediterranean diet of their ancestors, leading to expanding waistlines and poorer child health. National governments must promote and protect the cultural elements on the list (meaning the list could probably be leveraged to push healthier eating habits on the public).

And hey, we've got a bunch of ideas about what to do with all those tomatoes UNESCO's gonna want you to eat.

Feature photo: Garry Knight/Creative Commons via Flickr

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