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Traditional "Mediterranean Eating":
One diet, many cultures

In the history of mankind, "getting together" while eating has been fundamental, with not only a material but also a symbolic value: eating a meal does not only mean feeding, but it is also a form of communication and relationship between people, the extension of territorial traditional cultures.

The eating habits of the people living in the Mediterranean are the result of a long and difficult evolution of interaction between needs, environment and culture and could represent a good example of contacts between different traditions and a way of getting to know other cultures and the influence they have on each other.
In order to better understand the problems regarding the biological and cultural aspects of feeding connected to the migratory phenomenon and the importance that it covers in the adaptation processes and in the knowledge of the host country, a project has been realized for the schools of Rome. Educational material has been prepared on the 10 countries with the largest flow of emigrants arriving in Italy (from Albania, China, Morocco, Ecuador, Peru, Poland, Romania, Philippines, Egypt, Ethiopia). The different ecological, nutritional and cultural aspects of their diets have been studied in order to contribute to the creation of the educational programs for students and the teaching material for schools. The teachers will be able to teach certain specific realities coming from the foreign students, emphasizing the different cultural identities and promoting the integration process. It will also be possible to spread the knowledge about right eating habits.
In our work the nutritional aspects, the main typical ingredients, the symbolic values, the feasts and curiosities bonded to food have been analyzed for some of the Mediterranean countries (Albania, Egypt, Morocco and Italy). Also the process through which the basic ingredients of the Mediterranean diet are modified in the different traditions of the four countries have been examined (for example: wheat becomes pasta or couscous; legumes are eaten as soups or as flour) and how the different eating habits have come together, overlapped and mixed. The Mediterranean diet includes many cultures, therefore offering territorial variances in the preparation of the various dishes.
Taking a broader outlook of the "Mediterranean Eating" and using the various themes related to food as an "intercultural laboratory", we hope that this work could become part of a teaching method for intercultural education, using food to become acquainted with the elements which unite realities that only apparently seem to be different and distant.

P. Scardella, L. Piombo, Universita "La Sapienza", Italy
R. Spada, R. Carico, A. Morrone, Instituto San Gallicano, Italy

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