Slow Food guru rubbishes French cuisine's heritage bid
Slow Food movement for sustainable cuisine rejected a call for French gastronomy to be added to UNESCO's world heritage list.
PARIS, Feb 26, 2008 - The Slow Food movement for sustainable cuisine
on Monday rejected a call for French gastronomy to be added to UNESCO's world
heritage list, saying it was wrong to try to rank world cuisines.
"Why should French gastronomy be considered better than any other?" asked
Carlo Petrini, head of the influential Italian-based movement which promotes
high-quality, local food as a remedy to fast-food culture.
"To make gastronomy part of world heritage is an excellent idea, but all
countries should do so, not just France!" he said in response to the French
plan, announced by President Nicolas Sarkozy at the weekend.
"There is no question that France contributed in an extraordinary fashion
to creating high-level gastronomy," Petrini said. "But we do not believe in
creating hierarchies between gastronomies.
"Every nation has its gastronomical language, closely linked to its own
culture and all those culinary traditions need to be preserved."
In 2006, a group of top French chefs and academics set up a group to press
for the recognition of French gastronomy by UNESCO. The group includes famed
French chefs such as Paul Bocuse, Alain Ducasse and Michel Guerard.
Sarkozy told delegates at an agriculture fair at the weekend that France
would lobby for its cuisine to be added to UNESCO's list of cultural
treasures, calling it "the best gastronomy in the world."
The French bid will presented to the UN Educational, Scientific and
Cultural Organisation UNESCO next year, with a verdict due in in 2010.
UNESCO started its list of "intangible" cultural treasures such as dance,
carnival or other rituals in 2003.
In 2005, a UNESCO jury including several French members turned down a
request by Mexico to have its culinary tradition recognised, Petrini noted.
According to the French group set up to defend the bid, Italy intends to
file a similar motion.
But French chef Andre Daguin, head of the UMIH catering federation, argued
that "France is only the country with the most high-quality food produce and
in sufficient quantity."
For Michelin-starred chef Gerard Cagna, UNESCO's recognition would "allow
us to keep alive a fundamental part of our culture."
Many in French haute cuisine are still stinging from a blow delivered in
2003, when the New York Times ruled that Spain had overtaken its gallic
neighbour as the epicentre of the gourmet world.