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Armenia: More Fallout from UNESCO's Culinary Heritage Decision

As reported on this blog the other day, a recent UNESCO decision to add keshkek, a traditional Anatolian stew usually served on the morning of weddings, to its "Intangible Heritage" list on behalf of Turkey, has led to outrage in Armenia, which claims the dish -- known there as harissa -- as its own. In fact, as the News.Am website reports, a group of "young Armenian ethnographers are gathering all information on Harissa so as to appeal this decision."

Feeling burned by UNESCO's decision, another group of Armenians is now taking steps to safeguard what they believe to be the Armenian lineage of tolma, stuffed grape leaves or other vegetables, which are frequently also served in Turkey, where they are known as dolma. As the Aysor.Am website reports, the president of an Armenian NGO known as the "Preservation and Development of Armenian Culinary Traditions Public Organization" is urging the Armenian government to take the steps necessary to get UNESCO to recognize tolma as part of Armenia's "Intangible Heritage," particularly in light of what it believes are Azeri efforts to lay claim to the dish.

This is not the first time the group has raised alarms over who owns the right to claim tolma and other dishes as their own. From an article that ran in September on the Arminfo website:

It's time to save the Armenian national dishes, President of the "Preservation and Development of Armenian Culinary Traditions" Public Organization Sedrak Mamulyan said during a press-conference on Friday.

He said that many Armenian dishes have been appropriated by the neighboring nations: Georgia, Iran, Turkey and Azerbaijan. "The Georgians have 'privatized' our khash, the Azeris - piti, the Turks, Arabs and Moldovans - tolma. We have done nothing to patent our national dishes. But I hope to restore justice by means of a thorough study," Mamulyan said.

The Azeris, meanwhile, appear even more focussed on protecting their cuisine from what they believe are Armenian efforts to encroach on their culinary territory. Azerbaijan has its own culinary watchdog, an organization called the National Cuisine Center, whose director, Tahir Amiraslanov, appears to spend most of his time on an effort to teach the world that Armenian cuisine is actually Azeri cuisine. In November, Amiraslanov and his organization chided a Ukrainian publisher for printing a book called "Armenian Cookery," saying the dishes in the book were actually Azeri. Before that, Amiraslanov helped "expose" an attempt by a Russian frozen food company to mislead diners about the true (that is, Azeri, and not Armenian) origins of one of its new products.

Stay tuned. In this food fight, there is clearly more to come.

Armenia: More Fallout from UNESCO's Culinary Heritage Decision

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