Ermanno Cribari: Expo Shangai 2010 panel- Fatti non foste a viver come bruti ma per seguir virtute e conoscenza.

Fatti non foste a viver come bruti ma per seguir virtute e conoscenza.

Expo Shangai 2010 panel

Expo Shangai 2010

“Panel discussion on the Mediterranean Diet”

I would like to speak about the Mediterranean Diet in all its aspects. I believe it can represent an opportunity to change the destiny of a country which would, otherwise, not be able to regain the prestige it deserves. I will skip the aspects that are strictly linked to food, which will be dealt with by other speakers, I just would like to pinpoint an aspect: the Food and Drug Administration, the US agency dealing with the regulation of food safety, has recently recommended US olive oil producers to include in their products’ label claims the indication that 2 tablespoons of olive oil imply health benefits; as you all know, olive oil is the Mediterranean product par excellence and the main element of the Mediterranean Diet.

I have always been fascinated by the key role played by the Mediterranean Diet in health risks prevention all over the world. Therefore, I started analysing this topic in detail for two mains reasons. First of all, once the basic food groups of the food pyramid have been outlined, it was natural – I would say – to overlap this food regime with the daily diet adopted in Calabria up to some decades ago, to the point that I myself remember this nutrition-style approach. I was curious: what was the origin of this nutrition model? and when did it start? And finally, couldCalabriahave been the “inventor” of this model? Secondly, given the first assumption, that is the model has been part of the Calabrian nutrition habits for centuries, such a diet had to be part of a more extended model, of a life-style which has been instinctively chosen by our forefathers and that has been preserved in our habits and traditions (food, in fact, has always been the first goal of human existence from the very beginning, therefore human lifestyles have conformed to eating habits).

These two initial considerations originated in me the curiosity to compare my studies and my assumptions with those of other scholars and experts in nutrition and agro-alimentary sectors. I therefore devoted myself with all my passion to seek for  sound evidence to confirm my intuitions, being conscious that if I were able to validate them from a scientific point of view, we could have developed one of the most effective models of territorial marketing, based on this insight.

The first real success in my initiative of seeking cultural support for my ideas, was my meeting withFausto Cantarelli, one of the most outstanding exerts in agrofood history and economy, who showed the historical evidence that the Mediterranean Diet originated in the South of Italy and not elsewhere. In short time, you will have the pleasure to listen to his words directly.

Such assumption, published in his books and supported also by the most important Italian economy newspaper, Sole24Ore, last November, has never been rejected by anyone. We therefore, asked our President of the Regione Calabria, Mr. Scopelliti, to start an awareness campaign at the Unesco level to recognise Mediterranean Diet as an immaterial cultural heritage of mankind and as a “creature” of Calabria.

Calabria, can therefore claim its right more than any other Region or Nation; thanks to this,Calabriawill become the leader region of a very ambitious programme, whose main aim is to promote, implement and support a Mediterranean development plan, in collaboration with other regions and areas of theMediterranean. This initiative should not only include Mediterranean products, but also Mediterranean areas in terms of environment, culture and sustainable tourism.

As I have already stated, Calabriais an astonishing region, the cradle of western civilisation and the nativelandofMediterranean Diet. While the first two aspects of this region are well known, Mediterranean Diet has, on the contrary, lost its original connotation because of its extensive employment; it has become a colourless aspect of globalization. As it is, Mediterranean Diet and globalization are two opposing concepts: the former is the expression of memories and traditions, simplicity and peculiarity, while the latter is a homogenised and standardized brand. Mediterranean Diet enshrines the heritage of wisdom, globalisation is a golden void.

Due to the gloomy period in the agri-business sector and the demand for typical aspects by the tourism sector worldwide, which is at present one of the largest industrial sectors, Mediterranean Diet – being rich in history, wellbeing, beauty and conviviality –can become a powerful tourism driving element.

Rules and harmony are the most significant aspects of the most respected life-style at a worldwide level, the Mediterranean Diet, a scented fairy tanks to the products of one of the most fertile lands of the world whose climate is unique. The different microclimates, in fact, produce incredible fruits, with vivid colors and scents such as bergamots and citrons just to quote an example.

Since new more aware and non-globalised consumers increasingly require healthy products, Mediterranean Diet can act as the first and undebated model of healthy nutrition. A few know that the definition of Mediterranean Diet as a model of healthy nutrition and lifestyle behaviour was created in concurrence with the development of the largest epidemiologic study ever carried out in the field of nutrition by the US physiologist Ancel Keys 50 years ago: the Seven Countries Study.

Nicotera, a beautiful town by theTyrrhenian sea, was selected as the city where citizens lived longer and healthier among seven cohorts (considered as spaces with well defined boundaries) in the whole world. And it was not by chance that Keys spoke about diet for the first time. The word diet stems from ancient Greek and means “lifestyle”. Therefore, we could speak about “Mediterranean style” in lieu of  “made in Italy products”, expression which has nowadays lost its appeal.

In ancient times work was mainly physical and manual work, therefore physical activity was unavoidable. People ate the fruits of the earth grown thanks to natural elements: the sun, water and manure. Meat was usually served in feast days when meals almost became a wonderful rite. Families were small units of society and its members shared the pleasure of living together. Family was everything,  it was life.

Solidarity was the basis of life in common among the inhabitants of districts: they lived in peace and respected the laws of nature, although they had never read any code. Legality was an inborn value, a concept which reconfirms the idea brought about by the famous judge Paolo Borsellino. When he met young people from schools, he used to say: “legality must not be considered as the fear of sanctions, but as a basic value of our background”. This quotation – in turn – overlaps with a quotation by Kant “the star sky over me and the moral law in me”.

Small villages were an entire world and everything was kept and protected in it. Protection is a key word: nature was respected as well as its rules and rhythm.

Instinct guided peoples’ lives; it was a sort of magic advisor, and today science is re-evaluating its role in our lives. Men used to live among colours, smells, taste, respect and love. Food in Mediterranean Diet must be considered as an instrument of welcome, inclusion and – indeed – a triumph of colours and taste. Think that the bright colours of fruits and vegetables from our land are the markers of healthy substances, as if they were to convey a message: happiness and vivacity are good for your health. And indeed it was a reason of happiness meeting beloved people a couple of times for the main meals. Sitting together around a table meant for people growing up together and creating a sinthony among their minds and souls, like communicating vessels; people learnt to live and dream through the comparison with the others.

Today more than ever, in the uncontrollable crisis of globalisation and agribusiness, with the constant threat of obesity, the old language of nature begins to be re-employed. “Let your food be your drug and your medicine be your food” with this phrase Hippocrates supported the idea of the simplicity of wellness since primeval times: smiling, physical activity and correct nutrition, these were the ingredients of the model. Why, therefore, not exploiting the extraordinary opportunity that modern history is offering, by melting the knowledge of everyone of us? Let’s all join our hands and build together a peaceful future by working together through disciplines and skills, through passion and pain, by sharing experiences and knowledge, by putting into practice the main principle of culture: an instrument shared by all of us to improve our living standards.

Nothing better, therefore, than preparing our tables with the products of the Mediterranean Diet and be ready to receive the best we can those willing to “eat” our beautiful Land. We still have to work to be ready, and the culture of welcome must be revived indeed, but you are invited to seek for people who will receive you with a smile and a glass of wine. However, we are absolutely convinced that the Mediterranean Diet can represent a better future to those living inCalabriaand in the Mediterranean, but also to those who are willing to visit a corner of Paradise. I hope many of you will come: we will open the doors our history for you and will learn a lot from the millenary wisdom of your countries.

Thank you