IGCAT President Greg Richards and Director Diane Dodd visited UNESCO in Paris this week to discuss the role of gastronomy as intangible heritage and UNESCO support of IGCAT activities. The conversation with Cécile Duvelle, Chief of Section, Intangible Cultural Heritage Section and Giovanni Scepi, explored areas of mutual interest between IGCAT and UNESCO in the field of gastronomy. The discussions centred on the emergence of gastronomy as an important field of intangible heritage in recent decades, particularly as communities have sought to express their identity and heritage through food and food cultures. UNESCO particularly emphasised the role of ‘foodways’ or culinary practices as basic elements of most cultures and as instruments for the exchange of food products, social practices, customs and creativity. UNESCO has in recent years recognised a growing number of elements of intangible heritage related to food, including inscriptions in the Intangible Heritage Register for the gastronomic meal of the French and the Mediterranean diet. Many other food-related heritage elements have been proposed to UNESCO, including the beer culture of Belgium and café culture in the neighbourhoods of Buenos Aires. More are also on the way, as the push to designate Catalan food practices as UNESCO Intangible Heritage demonstrates. The upcoming Conference on Tourism and Gastronomy Heritage in Barcelona claims that this “gastronomic heritage has contributed to consolidate Barcelona as an extraordinary food tourism destination”.
These developments underline the considerable areas of shared interest between IGCAT and UNESCO, which can provide the springboard for future joint activities. The discussion included the possibilities of meetings and conferences on themes of mutual interest and publications in the fields of gastronomy and intangible heritage. We will explore these possibilities with UNESCO over the coming months.