Washoku, More Foods Make 'Intangible Cultural Heritage' List

Staff Writer
The Japanese cuisine washoku, as well as the Mediterranean diet, made it onto UNESCO's list

Food cultures important enough to preserve.

UNESCO added on 14 new items to a list of "traditional cultural activities" to preserve this year, announcing the new "Intangible Cultural Heritage" list, and apparently plenty of food traditions deserve to be preserved.

In Belgium, the practice of shrimp fishing on horseback in Oostduinkerke is considered culturally significant, where shrimpers on horseback ride along the surf and drag a net to catch shrimp. "A good knowledge of the sea and the sand strip and a close relationship with one’s horse are essential," UNESCO's press release says. "The tradition gives the community a strong sense of collective identity and plays a central role in social and cultural events, especially the two-day Shrimp Festival. Twelve households, each with its own speciality, are active in shrimp fishing. Knowledge is handed down from generation to generation, with experienced shrimpers demonstrating their fishing techniques to beginners."

Meanwhile, the Mediterranean diet is considered culturally important in Cyprus, Croatia, Greece, Italy, Morocco, Portugal, and Spain. UNESCO decided that participating in the Mediterranean diet not only takes a set of cooking skills, but also knowledge of crops, harvesting, fishing, conservation, and more, while emphasizing the sharing and consumption of food. "Eating together is the foundation of the cultural identity and continuity of communities throughout the Mediterranean basin," UNESCO said, noting the food's role in festivals, celebrations, and other gatherings.

Japan's washoku cuisine, or the traditional cuisine of Japanese culture, was celebrated for its "set of skills, knowledge, and traditions relating to the preparation and consumption of food, and respect for natural resources." Washoku, often seen during New Year's celebrations, emphasizes specially prepared meals with decorative accents, "using fresh ingredients, each of which has a symbolic meaning...The basic knowledge and skills related to washoku are passed down in the home at shared mealtimes."

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Meanwhile, an ancient Georgian winemaking method, as well as Ethiopa's festival of Maskel, were also named on the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity list.