Among humanity’s most cherished cultural treasures, the United Nations declared on Tuesday, are Peking opera, Spanish flamenco dancing — and lunch in France.
The decision by the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) to include French food among new additions to a list celebrating the world’s “intangible cultural heritage” came as no surprise in Paris. For centuries, people here have been convinced that nothing is so fine, so culturally satisfying, so spiritually uplifting as sitting down for a good French meal with friends and family. (Or maybe a lover, but that is another heritage.)
President Nicolas Sarkozy summed up the views of most of his compatriots when he blurted out at an agricultural fair two years ago that French cuisine is the best in the world and should be put on the UNESCO list. Although he quickly added, “at least, in our view,” his culinary chauvinism inspired tut-tuts from gourmets in Italy, Spain and other places.
UNESCO honoured traditional Mexican cuisine as well, although that fact tended to be lost in the din of self-congratulation in France over the world body’s acknowledgment of the country’s flair for orchestrating the perfect cascade of mealtime pleasures: from aperitif to appetizer, on to the main course, salad, cheese, dessert and perhaps fruit, with the appropriate wine bringing out the best in each dish.
France's ambassador to UNESCO, Catherine Colonna, expressed delight at the decision, saying in a statement that it “contributes to cultural diversity.”
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