World Heritage

According to UNESCO, “Heritage is our legacy from the past, what we live with today, and what we pass on to future generations.  Our cultural and natural heritage are both irreplaceable sources of life and inspiration.”  UNESCO—the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization—was founded in 1945 to promote world peace and security through international cooperation in education, the sciences, and culture.  It has 193 member states and 11 associate members.  UNESCO’s mission has expanded over the years to include the establishment of World Heritage Sites of cultural and natural importance.

The origins date back to 1954, when Egypt decided to build the new Aswan High Dam.  Predictably, the resulting reservoir would eventually inundate a large area of the Nile valley, which contained treasures of ancient Egypt and ancient Nubia.  The Governments of Egypt and Sudan asked UNESCO to assist them to protect the endangered monuments and sites.  The project resulted in the recovery of thousands of artifacts and the relocation to higher ground of important temples.  It was also the starting point of the Convention on the Protection of World Cultural and Natural Heritage and the consequent establishment of the World Heritage List.

The Galapagos Islands in Ecuador, Yellowstone National Park in the United States, and the Island of Goree in Senegal (the largest slave-trading center on the African coast) were among the 12 sites named to the first list in 1978.  The World Heritage List currently consists of a total of 1,153 assets in 167 countries around the world.  The last update of July 2021 includes the porticos of Bologna.  According to UNESCO, some porticos are built of wood, while others are made of stone or brick.  They cover the roads, squares, paths, and walkways of Bologna, and sometimes can be found on both sides of a street.  They cover a total area of 62 km and are a major part of Bologna’s identity.  This year UNESCO also recognized Montecatini Terme, a series of spas in Tuscany, and the fourteenth-century frescoes of Padua, which include Giotto’s Scrovegni Chapel fresco cycle, which marked the beginning of a revolutionary development in the history of mural painting.

With 58 World Heritage Sites, Italy has the most of any country.  Interestingly, the city with the most sites is not Rome or Paris; they were recently surpassed by Córdoba, the 22nd largest city in Spain.  The Mosque of Córdoba was the city’s first-named site.  Historians believe that the original structure was built as a church in the sixth century, converted into a mosque the following century, and later changed back to a cathedral.  The building’s design—with its many horseshoe arches, domes, and decorative tile work—is the epitome of Moorish architecture.

Cultural heritage is not just about monuments and natural sites, but also about traditions, oral expressions, social practices and rites transmitted, over the centuries, by our ancestors.  That’s why in 2017 UNESCO placed the art of Neapolitan pizzaioli on the honored List of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity: “The culinary know-how associated with pizza-making–which includes gestures, songs, visual forms of expression, local linguistic utterances and the ability to handle pizza dough properly and to transform pizza making into a performance to share—is without a doubt a cultural patrimony.  Pizzaioli and their guests all participate in a social ritual steeped in conviviality, where counter and stone oven work as a stage.”

UNESCO sets rigorous standards for recognition.  An asset must be considered of “exceptional universal value,” must meet conditions of integrity and authenticity, and must be equipped with an adequate protection and management system.  Preserving these sites and monuments and traditions is a legacy for future generations.

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La Carbonara: Mai fare questi errori!

Ci sono ricette italiane capaci di scatenare “guerre di religione” che riescono ad infiammare tante anime del Bel Paese. Tra questi c’è sicuramente la pasta alla carbonara, a volte chiamata semplicemente La Carbonara. Quando gli inglesi hanno di recente pubblicato una ricetta che usava la panna in questo piatto tradizionale romano, gli italiani hanno risposto per le rime.  Tanto che anche Massimo Bottura è intervenuto. Bottura è un famoso chef italiano e un sostenitore della lotta allo spreco alimentare. Ha aperto mense per i poveri, come la sua famosa Osteria Francescana, ristorante tre stelle Michelin a Modena che offre interpretazioni dinamiche e creative di piatti italiani. Eppure, Bottura ha difeso gli ingredienti tradizionali per la perfetta ricetta della carbonara: spaghetti, uova, guanciale, pepe e pecorino.

Bottura ha postato anche un messaggio su Instagram: “Niente panna nella Carbonara, per favore! Siamo noi i campioni!  I festeggiamenti dopo la finale degli Europei di calcio vinta dagli Azzurri contro l’Inghilterra hanno offerto probabilmente l’occasione per fare chiarezza anche in cucina. Bottura ne ha approfittato per dire: “Basta con le carbonare contraffatte!”

Lo chef britannico è stato incriminato? Probabilmente sì, e nientemeno che da Gordon Ramsay, noto tanto per le sue dichiarazioni provocatorie, per la sua propensione alle polemiche quanto per Union Street Café, il suo ristorante londinese. Ramsay ha caricato sui social un video della sua carbonara, che ha umilmente definito “la carbonara più incredibile!” Nella sua ricetta c’erano ben tre ingredienti non idonei: panna, pancetta e formaggio fuso. Inoltre, anche il colore del piatto non era appropriato…era giallastro. A giudicare dai commenti, gli italiani volevano crocifiggerlo.

Circa cinque anni fa, ho scritto di “Carbonara-gate”, un’interpretazione francese della Carbonara che ha quasi scatenato una crisi diplomatica. Su un sito francese, “infotainment” è apparsa una video-ricetta che conteneva una serie di sbagli eclatanti su come preparare la carbonara: l’intera cottura in casseruola, l’aggiunta di panna, il modo sbagliato di aggiungere le uova, e pancetta e parmigiano al posto di guanciale e pecorino. Per gli italiani è stato un sacrilegio a sua maestà La Carbonara. Poi di recente il New York Times ha pubblicato un’altra delle sue controverse ricette, questa volta nominata “Carbonara di pomodoro affumicata”. Prevede concentrato di pomodoro, i ciliegini, pancetta affumicata e parmigiano al posto del pecorino. Tra i commenti, “Questo è un peccato capitale!” 

In sintesi, ecco i dieci comandamenti della Carbonara:

1. Per prima cosa, vi serve un buon guanciale. Mai usate pancetta affumicata.  Un pizzico ne puoi anche aggiungere e forse puoi farla franca.

2. Usate solo tuorli o un po’ di albumi? Qui la dottrina non è esplicita. È meglio usare solo tuorli, ma l’aggiunta di un qualche albume sarebbe considerato solo un peccato veniale.

3. Pecorino o Parmigiana? Pecorino! Le origini del piatto sono laziali o abruzzesi.

4. Non dimenticate il pepe.  Una generosa spolverata di pepe nero appena macinato.

5. Pasta lunga o corta? Ancora una volta, la dottrina lascia spazio all’interpretazione. Spaghetti o rigatoni sono i formati più adatti.

6. Dimenticate la panna.

7. Dimenticate anche l’aglio e la cipolla.

8. E attenzione a non fare una pasta alla stracciatella (dalla consistenza di una zuppa).

9. L’uovo non va stracotto.

10. Finalmente, non ascoltate gli chef d’oltralpe.

Posted in Abitudini, Cucina italiana, Formaggio, Foto, Italia, Italiano, Modena, Roma | Leave a comment

La Carbonara: Never make these mistakes!

There are Italian recipes capable of unleashing virtual “religious wars” that manage to inflame many Bel Paese souls.  Pasta alla carbonara, sometimes simply called La Carbonara, is certainly among them.   When the British posted a recipe recently that included cream in this traditional Roman dish, the Italians responded with outrage.  Even Massimo Bottura got into the act.  Bottura is a renowned Italian chef and a vocal advocate for combatting food waste.  He has opened soup kitchens, as well as his famous Osteria Francescana, a Michelin three-star restaurant in Modena that features artful and creative renditions of Italian dishes.  Yet he defended the traditional ingredients in “our” perfect carbonara recipe: spaghetti, eggs, guanciale, pepper and Pecorino.

Bottura posted a message on Instagram: “Niente panna nella cabonara, per favore!  Siamo noi i campioni!  “No cream in the carbonara, please!  We are the champions!”  The celebrations after the recent final of the European Cup in soccer won by the Italian team against England probably offered the occasion to clarify things in the kitchen as well.  Bottura took the opportunity to say in effect, “Basta con le carbonare contraffatte!”—that is, “Enough with counterfeit carbonaras!”

The offending British chef?  Probably none other than Gordon Ramsay, known as much for his provocative statements and penchant for controversy as for Union Street Café, his London restaurant.  Ramsay uploaded on social media a video of his carbonara, which he humbly called “the most amazing carbonara!”  In his recipe there were three “counterfeit” ingredients:  cream, bacon, and melted cheese.  Plus, the color of the resulting dish was off—way too yellow.  Judging by the attendant comments, the Italians wanted to crucify him.

About five years ago, I wrote about “Carbonara-gate,” a French interpretation of Carbonara that nearly set off a diplomatic crisis.  On a French “infotainment” site appeared a video-recipe that contained a series of striking sins:  the entire cooking was in a casserole, the addition of cream, the incorrect method of adding the eggs, and the choice of pancetta and Parmigiano in place of the classic guanciale and Pecorino.  Italians considered it a sacrilege to her majesty La Carbonara.   Then recently the New York Times published another of its controversial recipes, this time “Smoky tomato carbonara.”  It called for tomato concentrate, cherry tomatoes, smoked bacon, and the use of Parmigiano instead of Pecorino.  Comments?  “This is a cardinal sin!”

In summary, here are the 10 commandments of La Carbonara:

  1.  First, you need a good guanciale.  Never use smoked bacon.  In a pinch, maybe you could get away with pancetta.
  2. Use only yokes or some egg white?  Here the doctrine is not explicit.  It’s better to use only egg yolks but the addition of a little egg white would be considered only a venial sin.
  3. Pecorino or Parmigiana?  Pecorino!  The origins of the dish are from the regions of Lazio or Abruzzo.
  4. Don’t forget the pepper.  Use a generous sprinkle of black pepper, freshly ground.
  5. Long or short pasta?  Here, doctrine surprisingly leaves room for interpretation.  Spaghetti or rigatoni are the most suitable.
  6. Forget the cream.
  7. Also forget the garlic and the onion.
  8. And be careful not to make a Stracciatella pasta (with a soup-like consistency). 
  9. Eggs should not be overcooked.
  10. Finally, don’t listen to chefs beyond the Italian Alps!
Posted in Abitudini, Cucina italiana, English, Formaggio, Foto, Italia, Modena, Roma | Leave a comment