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Guide to Food as Culture Heritage

The food as a cultural 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 conditions, about nature and culture. Even if we leave the country or culture in which we grew up, the food traditions will follow. Many countries have been open to the food of other cultures, 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. We can always go to the store and refill, as long as we can afford.

Compared to today’s varied and rich eating habits, older people’s diets seem single-handed and needy. 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 folk movement, where many can be inspired by older food traditions. From being silently transmitted between generations of women, 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. The black wax book with handwritten recipes from the home school and from the grandmother’s or mother’s recipe collection is also important in this context. 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 are 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.

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