In a country like Israel where the relatively small population comprises an enormous array of ethnicities and cultures, food is the materialization of multiculturalism. It is only fitting that this celebration of the rich tapestry of Israeli society should have its own shrine where these culinary traditions are preserved as an important part of our national heritage.
Our Food, our culture, our heritage
Cooking is undoubtedly very central to culture: in Israel alone an average of 75 new cookbooks are published every year, the Food Channel on commercial television has the fastest growing number of paying subscribers, and the local version of the MasterChef reality program has the highest viewing figures in the history of Israeli television. Wine tasting events, culinary tours and food fairs are thriving all across the country as never before.
And yet, while other areas of culture are regarded as intellectually significant, the culinary arts are largely confined to the commercial context. The visual arts, the natural sciences, the social sciences and history have all been honored with museums that illustrate their evolution and development. Museums allow for visitors to fully realize, in a material sense, the social and cultural impacts that the past and its artifacts have had on their lives and on the world at large. The culinary arts, however, have remained a field of knowledge and activity that is largely oriented towards consumerism. There is a dissonance between the overwhelming public interest in the culinary arts, and the absence of an established institution to address this interest in an intellectually stimulating, historical perspective.
Such an establishment would address other needs as well. In the past 30 years, the number of overweight Israelis has tripled and now constitutes 50% of the population (8th in the world according to the World Health Organization). One of the diseases most closely related to obesity and to unhealthy nutritional habits is diabetes. In Israel the number of diabetics has more than doubled in the last decade and now constitutes about 10% of the population (Israel is 2nd in the world in diabetes related mortality). The existence of a culinary center which provides a comprehensive presentation of food production processes and which actively promotes cooking based on fresh local products would greatly assist the public to make informed decisions about its diet and to adopt healthier nutritional habits.
In a country like Israel where the relatively small population comprises an enormous array of ethnicities and cultures, food is the materialization of multiculturalism. Unlike other aspects of Israeli society, extreme diversity in culinary traditions does not give rise to controversy and strife. In fact, culinary tradition and art is almost universally perceived as positive, enriching and unifying. The multi-ethnic food fair is a common feature in Israel and in the last couple of decades even the most exclusive gourmet restaurants have developed a menu which fuses elements from the diverse cuisines imported to Israel by the various waves of immigration. It is only fitting that this celebration of the rich tapestry of Israeli society should have its own shrine where these culinary traditions are represented and preserved as an important part of our national heritage.