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The cultural arm of the United Nations, known as UNESCO, is committed to preserving some of the most famous historical sites around the world, from the Taj Mahal to Grand Canyon National Park. And, as of recently, it has also extended its world heritage designations to a few of the world's most cherished culinary traditions, such as Turkish coffee and the traditional Japanese cuisine known as Washoku. We explore what it means to preserve culinary culture and weigh the importance of the UNESCO designation.
Washoku is a social practice based on a set of skills, knowledge, practice and traditions related to the production, processing, preparation and consumption of food. The basic knowledge and the social and cultural characteristics associated with Washoku are typically seen during New Year celebrations. The Japanese make various preparations to welcome the deities of the incoming year, pounding rice cakes and preparing special meals and beautifully decorated dishes using fresh ingredients, each of which has a symbolic meaning. These dishes are served on special tableware and shared by family members or collectively among communities. The practice favours the consumption of various natural, locally sourced ingredients such as rice, fish, vegetables and edible wild plants.
Turkish coffee combines special preparation and brewing techniques with a rich communal traditional culture. The tradition itself is a symbol of hospitality, friendship, refinement and entertainment that permeates all walks of life.
Kimchi, preserved vegetables seasoned with spices and fermented seafood, forms an essential part of the Republic of Korea meals, transcending class and regional differences. Preparation follows a yearly cycle. In spring, households procure shrimp, anchovy and other seafood for salting and fermenting. In summer, they buy sea salt for the brine. In late summer, red chilli peppers are dried and ground into powder. Late autumn is Kimjang season, when communities collectively make and share large quantities of kimchi to ensure that every household has enough to sustain it through the long, harsh winter.
UNESCO added the Korean art of Kimchi-making to its list of Intangible Cultural Heritage last December. Check out the video we made about making Kimchi for an October 2013 segment about artisan food producers.
The gastronomic meal of the French is a customary social practice for celebrating important moments in the lives of individuals and groups, such as births, weddings, birthdays, anniversaries, achievements and reunions. It is a festive meal bringing people together for an occasion to enjoy the art of good eating and drinking. The gastronomic meal should respect a fixed structure, commencing with an apéritif (drinks before the meal) and ending with liqueurs, containing in between at least four successive courses, namely a starter, fish and/or meat with vegetables, cheese and dessert.
The tradition of gingerbread making appeared in certain European monasteries during the Middle Ages and came to Croatia where it became a craft. Each craftsperson decorates gingerbread in a specific way, often with pictures, small mirrors and verses or messages. The gingerbread heart is the most common motif, and is frequently prepared for marriages, decorated with the newlyweds’ names and wedding date.