Pollica and the Lands of the Mediterrean Diet apply to become Unesco Creative Cities of Gastronomy
Last week, with a special edition of the magazine Il Gusto, dedicated entirely to the Mediterranean diet, the city of Pollica and the Lands of the Mediterranean Diet formally applied to become one of UNESCO Creative Cities of Gastronomy. The promoters of this initiative are the City of Pollica and its Mayor, Stefano Pisani and The Future Food Institute.
What is a Creative City for Gastronomy?
The UNESCO Creative Cities Network (UCCN) was created in 2004 to promote cooperation with and among cities that have identified creativity as a strategic factor for sustainable urban development. Almost 300 cities around the world which currently make up this network work together towards a common objective: placing creativity and cultural industries at the heart of their development plans at the local level and cooperating actively at the international level.
The network covers seven creative areas: handicrafts and folk arts, design, cinema, gastronomy, literature, media, and music.
Creative cities are committed to developing and sharing experiences to make them more inclusive and sustainable, establishing partnerships between the public and private sectors and civil society, and fostering professional and artistic exchange programs and networks, among other actions.
In order to be designated as the Creative City of Gastronomy, the city needs to participate in an annual selection promoted by UNESCO, submitting a proposal that answers determined criteria such as the relationship of gastronomy with the city, the use of traditional knowledge and local ingredients in typical cuisine and sustainable production practices, as well as an action plan.
Currently, two hundred and forty-six cities have been designated Creative Cities, with thirty-six cities in the area of gastronomy.
The Mediterranean diet, having a deeply rooted social and cultural element to it widely shared and practiced by peoples of different countries overlooking the Mediterranean Sea, has a particular identity value in some communities, defined as "emblematic". The Emblematic communities, as described by UNESCO, are those territorially defined social groups representative of the universal values declared Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity and particularly responsible for the preservation and enhancement of that element. The emblematic communities are those communities that for historical, scientific or qualitative reasons play the most significant role in the national communities of the seven proposing States (Italy, Spain, Greece, Morocco, Portugal, Croatia and Cyprus). The very identity of these communities lies in the collective and ancestral experience that is the Mediterranean Diet and is the result of continuous exchanges, experiences and symbolic traditions handed down from generation to generation within the cultural and social context of these countries.
In recognizing the Mediterranean diet as an Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity, UNESCO distinguished seven emblematic communities where “the Mediterranean diet is still alive, transmitted, protected, celebrated and recognized as part of the shared Intangible Cultural Heritage”. The list of the emblematic communities includes the National Park of Cilento, Vallo di Diano and Monti Alburni and Pollica where American physiologist Ancel Benjamin Keys lived for many years studying the Mediterranean Diet. He found that this diet protected the people from that area from high cholesterol, high blood pressure, cardiovascular and gastrointestinal diseases granting them a much higher longevity compared to the American population.
It’s always important to mention that the traditional Mediterranean diet is characterized by high intakes of olive oil, legumes, nuts, cereals, vegetables and fruits, and a moderate to high intake of fish. It includes moderate amounts of dairy, mainly as cheese and yogurt, and small amounts of meat.
Why is this recognition important?
Pollica and Cilento have the ambition to make its heritage a brand and a model that can revamp the crucial role of the Mediterranean - Mare Nostrum - as the new catalyst for innovation and development.
The Future Food Institute saw the great opportunities this territory had to offer and they made Pollica the base for their highly educational Summer Boot Camp for young people and for their culinary laboratory.
The Mediterranean Diet can really be a strategic instrument for politics and diplomacy and an extraordinary tool for the relations between the Mediterranean countries.
As mayor of Pollica, Stefano Pisani, said “The bet is to demonstrate that if we start from the bottom, from one of our dishes, if we manage to gather consensus for the raw materials that bind us, from oil to wheat, united we can change the future of the world”.
He goes on saying that the goal of this candidacy is to highlight the uniqueness, the biodiversity and the richness of the traditional knowledge that every municipality in the Cilento area has contributed to preserving. A commitment that spreads from institutions to individuals and to people who, with their knowledge and know-how, have perpetrated habits that have become art. From farmers to fishermen, from scientists to grandmothers, they are all keepers of a knowledge that has made this territory the cradle of the Mediterranean diet.
This commitment is not just on paper but it turns into plenty of activities, initiatives and projects aimed at spreading and sharing this knowledge, starting from the schools. “The Mediterranean Diet is, above all, about the stories of the people who create this lifestyle and this model - the mayor Stefano Pisani says - the cooks, the grandmothers, the communities, the faces and the hands of a culture to be passed on to the future generations that will fill it with their stories. This is why we applied for Creative City, we want to tell how to preserve and to treasure creativity".