French cuisine named a ‘world intangible heritage’

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (Unesco) on Tuesday declared French cuisine a “world intangible heritage,” creating the first time gastronomy is added to a list aiming to protect cultural practices.

Experts from the United Nations cultural organisation gathered this week in the Kenyan capital of Nairobi and said France’s multi-course gastronomic meal, with its rites and its presentation, fulfilled the conditions for featuring on the list.

The world intangible heritage list, which numbered 178 cultural practices — including the Royal Ballet of Cambodia and Mexico’s Day of the Dead festival — was drawn up under a 2003 convention, now ratified by 132 countries.

It seeks to protect cultural practices in the same way as Unesco protects sites of cultural value or great natural beauty.

The Unesco experts singled out French gastronomy as a “social custom aimed at celebrating the most important moments in the lives of individuals and groups”.

Parts of the rites
France’s ambassador to Unesco Catherine Colonna hailed the inclusion, saying it “makes a contribution to cultural diversity”.

“The French love getting together to eat and drink well and enjoy good times in such a manner. It is part of our tradition — a quite active tradition,” she added.

How wines are paired with dishes, how the table is dressed, the precise placing of glasses, for water, red and white wine, knife blade pointing in and fork tines down, are all seen as part of the rite.

Francis Chevrier, chief delegate of the French mission in charge of submitting the Unesco bid, also welcomed the decision.

“It’s very important that people realise, in villages in Africa and everywhere, that when you have knowledge of food it is a treasure for your community, and something worth cherishing,” he said.

Songs, dances and traditional know-how from 31 countries were up for consideration at the Nairobi meeting, ranging from the Spanish Flamenco, to China’s traditional art of Peking opera. — Sapa-AFP

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