Eat Your Way Through World Intangible Cultural Heritage
Just like historical monuments, customs and traditions, food also gives us deep insight into a culture that may be different from our own. After all, what people belonging to a particular country or ethnic group eat is intimately linked to their history, their evolution and their society. A bite of something that has been passed down through the generations often contains more than just flavors – they fill the untold stories of change and adaptation as well as struggle and perseverance. These then pass from the status of a dish to that of a heritage destined to be celebrated, supported and preserved. As an ode to this, these food practices from around the world have been inscribed on UNESCO’s list of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.
Think Belgium, think beer. Belgians have been involved in brewing this golden elixir since the 9th century. Currently, it is home to nearly 1,500 types of beer. It is not just the business of ordinary people, but even of the monks of the Trappist community who brew it for profit, which they donate to charity. Although Trappist beer continues to thrive, craft beer has also gained a certain preference since the 80s among Belgians (and the world). Over the years, brewing has evolved considerably, adopting many sustainable techniques and technologies.
No Korean meal is complete without Kimchi on the side. This dish of canned vegetables (mostly cabbage) seasoned with spices and pungent condiments is a staple in every Korean household’s cuisine, overcoming ever-pervasive social differences caused by factors such as class, economic background and the region. Equally important, however, is the Kimjang or annual process of preparing Kimchi – the process begins in spring and continues through winter. The elaborate business of preparing Kimchi encompasses a fundamental social purpose, as it preserves the custom of passing skills and ideas across generations and among members of society.
This delicious and indulgent flatbread belonging to Armenia has transcended the country’s border to become a crucial part of most meals across the Middle East. Behind the simple dish made with just a few fine ingredients is a long, painstaking process undertaken by the women. Kneading, molding and stretching the dough until it takes on a flat shape, requires skills honed over years and years of making lavash. The flatbread that accompanies a varied selection of cheeses, meats, vegetables and dips also has ceremonial and social significance – it is believed to bring fertility and prosperity to newlyweds, as well as strengthening social and family bonds.
Belonging to the culinary tradition of Malawi, Nsima may seem like a simple dish when described, but it is far from it. Although it is just a porridge prepared with corn flour, its manufacturing process is what sets it apart as intangible cultural heritage. From growing and harvesting the maize to pounding it into fine flour and preparing the dish, every step is closely tied to the Malwian way of life, which is why eating Nsima also becomes a community enterprise.
Algeria, Mauritania, Morocco and Tunisia, what do they have in common? Couscous! No party, wedding or family reunion is complete without couscous. It is very quickly the star of all meals. What gives it this status is the long-standing practice and knowledge that goes into the preparation of this staple dish, passed down from generation to generation. More than that, it has also come to adorn a socio-political character, as it is hailed as a symbol of international cooperation.