The UNESCO’s experts considered that the gastronomic meal of the French, with its rituals and presentation, fulfilled the conditions for joining the list of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity !
France wants to preserve this heritage, despite changes in lifestyles. Special efforts are made with younger generations. For instance, meals provided in schools are conceived as an educational moment in their own right. And every year in October, Tasting Week brings children to discover a range of flavors as wide as possible.
Worldwide, France’s Ambassadors ensure the quality of the table within their embassies to honor the gastronomic reputation of our country.
A decision by UNESCO
Since 2010, it’s therefore done : a UNESCO expert panel conclusion ruled favorably on the french proposal from Nairobi in Kenya. Our gastronomy has been listed in the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. During this session, the Committee examined more than fifty requests, from Armenian stone crosses to the Giong festivals in the Vietnam temples, from Spanish flamenco to Chinese acupuncture, without forgetting the art of carpeting in Azerbaijan.
In 2008, on the occasion of his visit to the Salon de l’Agriculture in Paris, that the then President of the Republic, Nicolas Sarkozy, had expressed his intention to submit to UNESCO a proposal of candidature to inscribe French gastronomy on the list of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. The request was subsequently supported by the Ministry of Agriculture and by many chefs and gastronomes determined to prove that cooking is culture. The particularity and identity of the French gastronomic meal were included in the same list on November 16th of 2010 by UNESCO, two years later. This is the first time culinary traditions are recorded in this list. In the same year, Mexican cuisine and the Mediterranean diet also joined the list of the Intangible Cultural Heritage.
What is the World Heritage of Humanity ?
Since the signing of the 1972 Convention, UNESCO classifies the sites and monuments of the world which are of exceptional character. According to an agreement signed in 2003, the organization is also mandated for the protection of the Intangible Heritage of Humanity.
Signed by 132 countries to date, this convention aims to protect popular cultures and traditions. So far, 178 cultural practices or traditional know-how have been registered in the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.
Taste is learned at school
UNESCO raised the possibility of the misuse of the UNESCO label for commercial purposes. France is committed to fully implementing the spirit and the letter of the Convention on the Intangible Heritage.
This inscription therefore implies the implementation of measures to ensure the preservation of the gastronomic meal of the French, especially in terms of initiation within schools. In this area, education is crucial to raise young people’s awareness of the culture of taste and transmit to future generations the table arts, losing momentum with the influence of fast food.
The meal is part of the French cultural identity
The Committee members noted that the meal was in France « a customary social practice designed to celebrate the most important moments in the individuals and groups lives, such as births, marriages, anniversaries, successes and reunions ». It is therefore a practice that strengthens the collective identity, strengthens the family and friendly ties. Emphasis has been placed on the fact that French gastronomy is synonymous with the art of taste, well-being together and harmony between human beings and nature’s productions.
It is therefore the meal associated with cultural identity that is highlighted : the purchase of quality products, preferably local, whose flavors go well together ; the particular choice of dishes, among a collection of recipes that keep getting rich ; the pairing between food and wine ; the aesthetics of the table ; conversations. The meal is part of the identity of the French. It is as well Norman, Provencal as Burgundy or Alsatian. It crosses borders, it brings us together.
Typical meal from UNESCO
The meal recognized by Unesco must include an aperitif, an entrée, a main course with meat or fish and accompaniment, cheese, a dessert and a digestif without omitting the wine according to the dishes.
A Mexicain anecdote !
For the small anecdote, it was first Mexico that had the idea to have its national cuisine inscribed in Unesco. But it rightly seemed unthinkable that France was not.