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The “queen” of the Mediterranean

Towards the end of the 1950s, scientific studies demonstrated the close relationship between diet and health and determined that the Italian lifestyle was an effective, balanced way to prevent cardiovascular diseases often present in more "advanced" societies. Thus, the "Mediterranean diet" was born and defined, not so much as a type of cuisine, but rather a group of ingredients common to the diet of all cultures living around that Mediterranean. The list included olives, wheat and cereals, vegetables, fish, and grapes; ingredients capable of giving rise to an endless series of preparations, balanced in terms of nutrition and environmental sustainability.

The cultivation of these food products, thanks to the work of generations of farmers, has transformed the landscape of the countries bordering the Mediterranean: wheat fields, olive trees and vineyards are "indicators" of fruitful natural environments and a delicate environmental balance that has characterized the Mediterranean hills and plans for millennia. In addition, these food products symbolize meanings, as they are related to the religiosity rites, conviviality and the very identity of peoples and countries. In November 2010, UNESCO added the Mediterranean diet in the list of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity, recognizing the universal value - to protect and promote - in a millennium-old "lifestyle".

The Academia Barilla staff has published an over-300-page book dedicated to this special diet. The book is broken down the traditional courses of the meal – appetizers; first courses like pasta, soups and risottos; second courses of fish, meat and poultry; vegetables and side dishes; and desserts - with a few additional chapters devoted to bread and cakes, preserves and liqueurs. The introductions, written by Guido, Luca, and Paolo Barilla, as well as Antonio and Nadia Santini, are followed by essays devoted to what might be called "Mediterranean food culture." Alongside each of the 130 recipes – selected with passion and intelligence by Mario Grazia and photographed by Alberto Rossi - Lorraine Carrara has added brief historical and anthropological notes, revealing the deep roots of the traditions, meanings and endless variations of the dishes. The sidebars are reminders that behind every "flavor," there is a long line of achievements, skills, inventions, and meanings, which often go beyond the nutritional aspect of food to include the cultural and social spheres. The cookbook ends with a clever index of recipes and ingredients.

In keeping with the mission to enhance the culture of Italian food, Academia Barilla has dutifully dedicated these pages to the Mediterranean diet – and not only to the recipes, but to their meaning and traditions - in the belief that a healthy lifestyle and a healthy diet can contribute to human health and well-being of society.

ACADEMIA BARILLA, Cucina mediterranea: aromi e sapori della tradizione mediterranea, (Mediterranean cuisine: aromas and flavors of the Mediterranean tradition.)

Vercelli, White Star, 2011.

Edizioni White Star

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All publications received will nevertheless be mentioned in the column and will enter into the Academia Barilla’s Gastronomic Library, and therefore viewable by teachers, students and the public.