Mediterranean conviviality: the secret of a life well lived

07.02.2022

It might be the sun or it might be the sea – but the Mediterranean people seem to know a bit more than the rest of us about what it means to live simply and beautifully. And not just for today, but for thousands of years. Olive oil, lemons, fresh fish and seafood, some of the most colourful vegetables and fruit, spices and aromatic herbs, complemented by light wine, in tune with the warm and friendly climate of the area, just like the people who inhabit it. The Mediterranean taste seems to carry with it something timeless. Something is renewed with each season and, at the same time, always stays the same.

The “Mediterranean diet” has been part of UNESCO’s Intangible Cultural Heritage since 2013. Its name derives from the Greek word díaita, meaning lifestyle) involves a set of skills, knowledge, rituals, symbols and traditions concerning crops, harvesting, fishing, animal husbandry, conservation, processing, cooking, and particularly the sharing and consumption of food.

Seven emblematic communities represent this cultural heritage: Cyprus, Croatia, Spain, Greece, Italy, Morocco, and Portugal. These communities protect the history and cultural assets of this heritage and help promote its values and practices throughout the world. At first, in 2010, the recognition was only for Spain, Italy, Greece and Morocco. Still, in 2013 UNESCO extended the area of representation to include Cyprus, Croatia and Portugal.  

Eating together is the foundation of the cultural identity and continuity of communities throughout the Mediterranean basin. It is a moment of social exchange and communication, an affirmation and renewal of family, group or community identity. The Mediterranean diet emphasises values of hospitality, intercultural dialogue and creativity, and a way of life guided by respect for diversity.

Based on a belief of the ancient Greeks that behind every person who knocked on the door or came by, there might have been a god disguised as a mere mortal, Mediterranean hospitality encapsulates the idea that every guest should be adequately welcomed and honoured. This way, food becomes a catalyst for bringing together people of all ages, backgrounds and social classes to cultivate a sense of well-being and celebrate the joy of life.

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