Nowadays, many cities take pride in their local cuisine and offerings, but how does one tell which is truly the best of the best? On December 11, Tucson distinguished itself from the competition by being the first city in the United States to be named a World City of Gastronomy by the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), according to a release. Tucson joins 116 cities in the UNESCO Creative Cities Network, and five other Creative Cities in the United States.
Launched in 2004, the UNESCO Creative Cities Network “aims to foster international cooperation with and between cities committed to investing in creativity as a driver for sustainable urban development, social inclusion and cultural vibrancy,” according to the Creative Cities Network website. The Director-General says the Network “represents an immense potential to assert the role of culture as an enabler of sustainable development.”
Why Tucson? Gary Paul Nabhan, an ethnobotanist and professor at the University of Arizona’s Southwest Center, says, “The Tucson Basin deserves this honor not only for having some of the oldest continually farmed landscapes in North America, but also for emerging as a global hotbed for ideas on relocalizing food economies and growing food in a hotter, drier climate. From food banks, seed libraries, and farmers’ markets, to community gardens, community kitchens, and literary luminaries writing on food and culture, we are serving as a nursery grounds for new innovations, not merely for preserving our food heritage.”
Tucson’s agricultural heritage extends back more than 4,000 years, and is the longest known continuously cultivated area in North America, according to a press release. Tucson also boasts a 30-year-old conservation nonprofit known as Native Seeds/SEARCH, founded by Nabhan, which works to document and preserve the historic crops of the Southwest. Their extensive collection of desert adapted seeds feature seeds that exist nowhere else in the world, according to Edible Baja Arizona. It is for these reasons and many more that make it easy to see why Tucson was awarded this prestigious distinction.