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Le Cordon Bleu News, 11/14/2014
Mediterranean diet discovery
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The World Culinary Traditions

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Mediterranean diet discovery
The Mediterranean diet became part of UNESCO’s Intangible Cultural Heritage in 2010. This distinction highlights the important role played by this way of eating in the culture and identity of 4 communities in the Mediterranean basin: Cilento (Italy), Coron (Greece), Soria (Spain) and Chefchaouen (Morocco). In December 2013, other communities were added: Agros (Cyprus), Hvar and Brac (Croatia) and Tavira (Portugal).

The word diet finds its origins in the Greek díaita, which refers to a lifestyle which renowned French Hellenist, Anatole Bailly, described as “a whole set of habits of the body and the mind, tastes, customs etc.”  The word diet is often interpreted in different ways, in nutritional terms to describe a way of eating recommended by a healthcare professional, and in a wider sense to describe a way of eating adopted by an individual or a group of people.

The Mediterranean diet can then, in the widest sense of the term, be described as a way of life, a whole set of habits, tastes and customs which define a community of individuals and helps to create a collective identity.  As such, according to UNESCO’s definition, the Mediterranean diet constitutes "a set of skills, knowledge, rituals, symbols and traditions concerning crops, harvesting, fishing, animal husbandry, conservation, processing, cooking, and particularly the sharing and consumption of food.”

Each stage of the process, from planting to actually eating a dish, involves a great deal of skill, knowledge, customs and traditions which reinforce the ties between people belonging to these Mediterranean communities.  Even if each country in the Mediterranean basin has their own history, culture, geography, terroir, climate and gastronomy, there is a real unity in terms of the Mediterranean diet whose influence can be seen in cuisine and products but also in agriculture, production, marketing, the culinary arts and mealtime rituals.

As far as ingredients are concerned, the cornerstones of the Mediterranean diet are olive oil, cereals, vegetables and fresh and dried fruit, as well as wine.  To these staple foods, small quantities of meat, fish, dairy products, honey and cheese are added.  Alcohol and pastries are not consumed in large quantities.  Water and infusions are favored and only very small amounts of wine are consumed with a meal.  The Mediterranean diet aims to meet individuals’ nutritional needs through a simple and light style of cuisine.

The techniques used for making dishes involve very specific skills, which are passed from one generation to the next within a family setting.  In terms of dishes, it is difficult to find exactly the same dishes in every Mediterranean country, but we can see a common thread in that a number of emblematic dishes from each country’s cuisine find their roots in Antiquity.  For example Borghol, a traditional Tunisian dish, comes from alica.  Melthouth is also made using a technique to mold roasted barley that they used to make alphiton in Ancient Greece.  There are, therefore, numerous examples of Greco-Roman influence throughout the different countries that make up the Mediterranean basin.  The word tajîn also finds its roots in the Greek word tagynon.

As far as eating the dishes is concerned, great importance is given to the interactions that take place during the meal.  These convivial moments allow the values of sharing, hospitality and respect for others to be passed on, strengthening the ties between the members of a community.

Nowhere was this union of Mediterranean basin countries more evident than during the application for the Mediterranean diet to become part of UNESCO’s Intangible Cultural Heritage.  The bid was successful thanks to the teamwork and dialogue between a number of Mediterranean communities:  Cilento (Italy), Coron (Greece), Soria (Spain), Chefchaouen (Morocco), Agros (Cyprus), Hvar and Brac (Croatia) and Tavira (Portugal).

France is not part of this agreement, despite the south having a very similar diet, as the French diet is so varied from region to region.   France's gastronomy is, all the same, part of UNESCO's Intangable World Heritage list with its gastronomic meal.


Are you looking for recipes which are packed full of Mediterranean flavors?  Le Cordon Bleu Chefs have the following recipes to share with you:

Confit Mediterranean vegetables and fresh ewe’s curd cheese napoleon, served with pesto Bayaldi style vegetables and Provencal coulis Thick sea bass steak with wild fennel stems, confit Provencal vegetables and vierge sauce

Confit Mediterranean vegetables and fresh ewe’s curd cheese napoleon, served with pesto

Bayaldi style vegetables and Provencal coulis

Thick sea bass steak with wild fennel stems, confit Provencal vegetables and vierge sauce

  • Our Mediterranean Flavors workshop from June 8 to 11, 2015 is ideal for all those who love Mediterranean flavors.  Book on line.
  • Do you want to learn more about culinary traditions throughout the world?  Come this way!

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