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Guide to Food as Culture Heritage

Food and meals are an important part of our cultural heritage. Even though we are far from pre-industrial storage today, there is much knowledge and inspiration to be gained from food traditions of old times.

Food is not only vital to us, but it also tells us so much about our way of life, about nature and culture. In fact, food tends to play an important role in cultures. Some more than others.

Even if we leave the country or culture in which we grew up, the food traditions will follow. This is also what has contributed to spreading food cultures, dishes, and traditions across the world. Many countries have been open to the food of other cultures more than others, which means that many cultures have been influenced by other food cultures.

Before industrialism, it was very much about the struggle for survival for many countries when it came to food. Then, things have changed as now, we can buy fruits, vegetables, and spices from all over the world all year round by simply going to the grocery store. We can always go to the store and refill, as long as we can afford it.

Compared to today’s varied and rich eating habits, older people’s diets seem more single-handed and not as varied. It is not difficult to understand that we have quickly imported ingredients and recipes. But there is a great variety even in the older food tradition. Although the raw materials were more limited and the tradition governing, each could develop their cooking art based on their conditions. It is interesting to see how much variation there is between the same dishes.

Today, there is a great interest in sustainable local food production with reduced transport. Mathematical work has become something of a new movement, where many can be inspired by older food traditions. From being silently transmitted between generations, today we can highlight stories and recipes from the archives, making them accessible to anyone interested in older food traditions.

An important part of the change in the food culture is, of course, the home schools and cookbooks and, more recently, the cooking programs on TV and all the recipes that are published online. Here, both an older and a newer tradition can meet.

Today there are several opportunities to pay attention to and protect a food tradition. Perhaps it can be included in the national list of living traditions, which are linked to the UNESCO Convention for the Protection of Material Cultural Heritage? There is already some intangible cultural heritage linked to food traditions, such as livestock and coffee.

Through the EU, traditional foods and agricultural products can receive a protected designation. The aim of the designation is to preserve the craft tradition and the traditional landscape.

The importance of food as cultural heritage can also be found in our place names. Sometimes it may be an actual connection to food, but often it is an interpretation based on the vital role of food. The fact that some dishes and pastries have been named after more or less famous people is also part of the cultural heritage of the food.

Food as a cultural heritage

Food and culture are closely integrated. When a lot of people think of countries such as Italy, we think about food. Pasta, pizza, and wine, for example. In this culture, food is a crucial part of their way of life as it is often eaten together in large groups of friends, family, and relatives. It becomes so much more than just food. It becomes a time to unite and interact. It thus has a great social purpose. In other cultures, food is not as important from a social standpoint and is mainly eaten for survival, but regardless, the culture of cooking will always be present and vary depending on history, access to ingredients, and the way of life.

Food is both culture and identity but also memories, community, celebrations, and traditions. All national minorities have their own food culture, their own recipes, and food traditions that tell something about the origin, history, religion, way of life and culture of the minorities.

Food culture focuses on the cultural side of the production, distribution, and consumption of food and drink. With food culture, one often thinks of aspects of food culture that are perceived as differentiating between eras, continents, countries, regions, people groups, or social groups. Factors affecting a food culture include access to raw materials, cooking technology and traditions as well as religious food rules, but also ideas about what is healthy, trendy, or otherwise desirable – and vice versa.

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