The Italian government has asked UNESCO to add Neapolitan pizza to their Intangible Cultural Heritage List, citing the role of pizza maker alongside the history of the dish as reasons for its inclusion. Invented in southern Italy, the humble pizza is just one of the world’s most historic foods, and here are some others guaranteed to get your mouth watering.
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Believe it or not, pizzas existed long before the arrival of Domino’s and Papa John’s. In fact, the first recorded consumption took place in 997 AD, when it was a popular dish in Gaeta, central Italy. In Sardinia, archaeologists have found evidence of pizza consumption 7,000 years ago, and it’s known that in the 6th century BC, the soldiers fighting under Persian king Darius would bake flat-breads on their shields, before adding cheese.
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Smørrebrød is one of Denmark’s oldest foods. It’s an open-faced sandwich made with traditional Danish rye bread. There are numerous varieties, but the most popular versions are made with fish, pâté or meat. The past decade has seen some of Denmark’s hottest new chefs create their own versions of Smørrebrød, breathing new life into Denmark’s most traditional food. It’s believed the dish was first eaten by farmers, who would place leftover food on a “plate” of bread which could be eaten quickly and easily out in the open.
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Rather than being one single dish, Kaiseki is the word used to describe a traditional multi-course Japanese meal. It’s a concept with its roots in the sixteenth century, and today, it’s more of an art form than a meal, with careful attention paid to the taste, texture, appearance, and colour of food. Today, it’s evolved from a meal which once comprised of a bowl of miso soup and three side dishes to a culinary extravaganza which includes – at a minimum – an appetiser, sashimi, a grilled dish, and a steamed course.
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Kimchi is one of the most popular dishes in South Korea. It’s a traditional fermented side dish made with seasoned vegetables – cabbage and seaweed are popular choices. It’s the country’s national dish, and it has been for hundreds of years. During the Vietnam War the South Korean government requested help from the US president to ensure that South Korean troops could still enjoy it, and more recently, it was sent into space, after scientists created a vitamin-rich version especially for South Korean astronaut Yi So-yeon.
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Licitars are colourfully-decorated biscuits made in Croatia. Typically made from honey dough (although referred to as gingerbread), they come in various shapes and sizes, although red is the predominant colour. In winter they’re hung on Christmas trees and on Valentine’s Day, they’re given as sign of endearment. In 2010, UNESCO recognised their importance by adding traditional gingerbread craft work to their Cultural Heritage list. That wonky, one-eyed gingerbread you made suddenly looks rather amateur.
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Christstollen is a traditional German food eaten at Christmas. It originates in Dresden, and today there are over 130 specialist bakeries in the city. The main ingredients have changed little from the recipes used hundreds of years ago – dried fruits, candled peel and rum are key ingredients in this fruit cake-like bread, which was first eaten during medieval times. Although it’s a popular dish throughout the country, only the ones produced in Dresden are regarded as truly authentic, and a quality marque has been created to identify them.
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Ceviche (pronounced “seh-VEE-chay”) is a popular dish found throughout Latin America. Made with raw seafood marinated in lime or lemon juice, it’s a dish served cold, usually with tomatoes, onions, chillies or cilantro. Although different types of seafood can be used, shrimp, scallops, squid and octopus are the most popular choices. Its birthplace was both Peru and Ecuador, and it’s thought to date back to Inca times – the Incas were known to love salted fish, and the Spanish are thought to have contributed to the custom of using lemons and onions as seasoning.
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Sticky, sweet and often stringy, dondurma is Turkish ice cream. The inclusion of salep flour (made from the roots of orchids) and mastic gum gives it a chewy thickness which allows traditional sellers to serve it with long-handled paddles. One advantage of dondurma ice cream is that it doesn’t melt, and in Turkey, it is so popular that mass consumption depleted the country’s supply of wild orchids and caused the government to ban their export.
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One of Germany’s oldest foods, pretzels have a history that spans hundreds of years. Legend states that 500 years ago, a baker was awaiting execution at the hands of a local duke. The duke told the baker that he’d spare his life if he baked a bread through which the sun could shine three times, which is precisely what the baker did. Today, fans of the delicacy can learn more about its history at the Museum of Bread Culture in Ulm. Yes, there really is such a thing.