18th June: Sustainable Gastronomy Day
Can you imagine if black beans, one of the main ingredients in the Brazilian dish feijoada, no longer existed? Could you conceive of a traditional Chilean dish like curanto without clams? The disappearance of a species or crop not only impoverishes our culinary tradition, but also directly affects our cultural heritage.
The United Nations General Assembly designated 18th June as Sustainable Gastronomy Day. Through joint work with the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), they inform the public about the contribution of gastronomy in the fulfilment of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
Do we want people to be healthy? The key is biodiversity
Biodiversity includes a wide variety of plants, animals and microorganisms, and the genetic differences within each species (such as crop varieties) and the variety of ecosystems (such as lakes, forests, deserts, agricultural fields) that constantly interact between their members (humans, plants, animals) and their environment (water, air, soil).
The problem is that the number of species and ecosystems are declining at a rapid pace. And it’s our fault. According to UN data, human activity has altered the terrestrial environment by 75% and the marine environment by 66%. The direct consequence is the imbalance in ecosystems, which causes pests and the extinction of animal and plant species.
Keep in mind that, at present, only fifteen plants provide food for 90% of humanity. Imagine that our grandparents and great-great-grandparents got to use 7,000! Livestock production is not encouraging either: it is based on some 40 animal species, of which only a few provide most of the meat, milk and eggs. In fact, of the 7,745 local livestock breeds registered in the world, at least 26% are in danger of extinction (Source: UN).
This is not only serious for the health of the planet, but also affects human health, because the imbalance in ecosystems increases the possibility of the onset of transmissible diseases between animals and humans. Ultimately, human health, animal health and environmental health are intrinsically connected and interdependent. The health of one affects the health of all, as shown by the One Health initiative.
What if we stop this domino effect?
The kitchen: a vehicle for sustainability
Sustainable gastronomy is synonymous with a cuisine that takes into account the origin of the ingredients, how they are grown and how they reach our markets and, ultimately, our dishes. It is a perspective that combines our cultural expression in the kitchen with the desire to make it last over time without harming the environment or health.
Sustainable Gastronomy Day also seeks to reinforce the fact that cultures and civilizations can contribute to sustainable development and to raising awareness of the crucial role they play in making this possible. For example, local restaurants can include a variety of more local dishes on their menus, made with more local foods and cooked with more environmentally friendly energy sources (such as gas and electricity instead of coal, and natural gas instead of carbon).
You also have to do your bit. And, fortunately, you can do it in many ways. One of them is by attending cultural food exhibitions and disseminating the importance of sustainable gastronomy. You can also support restaurants that adopt greener practices and order traditional dishes of your region. At home, you can help by buying a wider variety of foods (not always the same variety of apple!) that are healthy, zero-km and directly from the producer.
There are entire nations that can be summed up in a plate of food. Because our gastronomy is identity. Because what we eat is a reflection of our history. What if we also secure its future?