The Eastern Algarvian town of Tavira has seen its tourism and gastronomy sectors grow significantly since the Mediterranean diet was considered World Intangible Heritage by UNESCO in 2013.
So said mayor Ana Paula Martins this week in an interview with Lusa news agency.
As she explained, the eating habits of the people of Tavira are deeply rooted in the Mediterranean diet’s philosophy, which in a nutshell involves a daily consumption of vegetables, fruits, whole grains and healthy fats and a moderate consumption of fish, poultry, beans and eggs.
This is why Tavira was one of the municipalities which supported the bid for UNESCO recognition alongside Agros (Cyprus), Brač and Hvar (Croatia), Soria (Spain), Koroni/Coroni (Greece), Cilento (Italy) and Chefchaouen (Morocco).
The influence of the diet in the lives of locals is so great that the UNESCO recognition had a far-reaching impact on the development of many sectors in Tavira, said the mayor – particularly of its restaurants and tourism businesses.
While Martins said that it was an “honour” for Tavira to be a part of the bid which led to the UNESCO recognition, she admitted that it also brought the borough more “responsibility”.
Thus a plan was devised in 2013 to guarantee that the diet’s traditions are passed on to future generations.
What does UNESCO say about the diet?
On UNESCO’s website, the Mediterranean diet is described as a “set of skills, knowledge, rituals, symbols and traditions concerning crops, harvesting, fishing, animal husbandry, conservation, processing, cooking, and particularly the sharing and consumption of food.”
Eating together is said to be the “foundation of the cultural identity and continuity of communities throughout the Mediterranean basin.
“It is a moment of social exchange and communication, an affirmation and renewal of family, group or community identity. The Mediterranean diet emphasises values of hospitality, neighbourliness, intercultural dialogue and creativity, and a way of life guided by respect for diversity,” says UNESCO.
It adds that the diet also plays a “vital role in cultural spaces, festivals and celebrations, bringing together people of all ages, conditions and social classes.”
By MICHAEL BRUXO