The European Parliament resolution on the European gastronomic heritage’s cultural and educational aspect, voted on 18 February 2014, is part of the European institutions’ commitment to establish gastronomy as a collective culture. The numerous works published by the European Commission’s Publications Office (Typical Recipes: A Culinary Journey Through the New Member States of the European Union, 2004, Tastes of Europe, 2013) and the Information Centre on the European institutions (European Recipes, 2012), for example, are all milestones for the enlargement of the European area, comprised of diversity and dialogue.
In the European Union States and the Council of Europe, these intricate links of history, culture and food, which characterize gastronomy, bear specific national traditions, but also create mechanisms of reciprocal identification. The French writer Laurent Gaudé has just entitled one of his latest works Us, Europe, Banquet of the Peoples: what more sensitive title could one come up with? This banquet-inspired image embodies a poetic and humanistic study of a century and a half of constructing the European idea, as well as a call to cultivate differences, solidarity and freedom.
Wealth, biodiversity of products, passion and demand of professionals in the sector are essential and necessary to support and encourage the development and creativity of the trades and sectors of gastronomy and make them a lever of attractiveness for the territories. But to consider gastronomy, a unifying and living heritage of know-how and practices, as a dimension of cultural heritage is, in my opinion, just as necessary. It tells the story of the human groups that shaped the gustatory personality of our respective nations.
It is interesting to observe the study of the manifestations of “the art of eating well and drinking well” in heritage policies in Europe. Thus, in France, within the services and establishments of the Ministry of Culture, which celebrates this year its sixtieth anniversary, the culinary world, related to the fields of architecture, furniture, writing, art, archaeology and ethnological collections, was firstly affirmed by its material evidence as seen in the work of heritage professionals from its first decade.
Fifty years later, in 2010, the success of the gastronomic meal of the French’s candidacy at the UNESCO, launched and defended by the European Institute of history and food cultures, in Tours, renewed the cultural approach of gastronomy. Establishing social practices, oral expressions, festive events, knowledge related to nature, rituals and craftsmanship skills as intangible cultural heritage, the 2003 UNESCO Convention strove towards operational and participatory notions to safeguard living heritage: communities, cultural diversity, communication, education and, today, sustainable development. Within Europe, several States Parties have since recognized, under a single banner, emblematic elements of their gastronomic heritage and associated practices and know-how.
It is with the awareness of these cultural issues, renewed within a few decades and so perfectly contemporary, that the Journal Général de l’Europe proposes the present contribution to a global history of European gastronomic heritage.
Minister of Culture