Celebrating Sustainable Gastronomy: Nourishing Tradition, Health and Planet

Dr. Anil Bhat & Rohit Kumar

Every year 18th June, the world unites for a delicious cause – Sustainable Gastronomy Day. The UN General Assembly adopted on 21 December 2016 its resolution A/RES/71/246 and designated 18 June as an international observance, Sustainable Gastronomy Day. Sustainable gastronomy means cuisine that takes into account where the ingredients are from, how the food is grown and how it gets to our markets and eventually to our plates. The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the UN General Assembly work to facilitate the observance of Sustainable Gastronomy Day, in collaboration with Member States, UN organizations and other international and regional bodies, as well as civil society, to observe the Day in raising public awareness of its contribution to sustainable development. This year the theme for the Sustainable Gastronomy Day is “More Taste Less Waste”.
This global celebration transcends mere indulgence in culinary delights. It’s a day to delve deeper, pondering the impact our food choices have on the environment and our health. It’s a call to action, urging us to explore ways to savor the world’s flavors while safeguarding our planet for generations to come. Sustainable Gastronomy Day shines a spotlight on eco-friendly practices in food production. Organic farming methods, which promote soil health and minimize the use of harmful chemicals, take center stage. Reducing food waste throughout the supply chain, from farm to table, is another crucial focus area. This not only conserves precious resources but also reduces greenhouse gas emissions associated with food production and transportation. Additionally, the day champions responsible consumption, encouraging us to make informed choices about the food we buy and eat. But the focus isn’t solely on environmental impact. Sustainable Gastronomy Day celebrates the bounty of local produce, a treasure trove of fresh, seasonal ingredients bursting with flavor and peak-season nutrients. By embracing local options, we support our local farmers, ensuring they receive fair compensation for their hard work. It also reduces the environmental footprint associated with long-distance food transportation. This creates a win-win situation: consumers get fresher, more flavorful food, and farmers thrive in a sustainable food system.
Perhaps the most heartwarming aspect of Sustainable Gastronomy Day is its celebration of diverse culinary traditions. These traditions are more than just a collection of recipes; they’re vibrant tapestries woven from the rich history and heritage of cultures around the globe. Each dish tells a story, passed down through generations, connecting us to our past and reminding us of the resourcefulness and ingenuity of our ancestors. By exploring and appreciating these traditions, we not only expand our culinary horizons but also encourage cultural understanding and appreciation. We often take for granted the immense effort that goes into getting food onto our plates. Sustainable Gastronomy Day bridges this gap. From the farmers who sow the seeds and nurture crops through challenging weather conditions to the complex transportation and processing systems that ensure food reaches our tables, a surprising amount of work goes into every bite we take. By appreciating this journey, we become more mindful consumers. We make conscious choices about what we eat, minimizing food waste and ensuring a sustainable future for our plates and our planet. While there’s no official national celebration of Sustainable Gastronomy Day in any particular country, the United Nations encourages all member states to participate. Many restaurants, chefs, and NGOs are taking the initiative, holding events that promote local and sustainable food practices. This grassroots movement highlights the potential for wider adoption of sustainable food systems in India’s future.
Observing Sustainable Gastronomy Day is important for several reasons:

  1. Awareness of Traditional Food: It emphasizes the significance of traditional cuisines that are often deeply rooted in local culture and biodiversity. By promoting sustainable gastronomy, we encourage the preservation of traditional food practices and ingredients.
  2. Care in Bringing Food to Plates: Sustainable gastronomy promotes mindful consumption by considering the entire lifecycle of food from production to consumption. This involves reducing food waste, supporting local producers, and using environmentally friendly practices in food preparation.
  3. Comparison of Traditional Cuisine vs. Modern Packaged Food: Traditional cuisine often uses fresh, locally sourced ingredients which are healthier and more sustainable compared to heavily processed modern packaged foods that may contain additives and preservatives.
  4. Impact on Gastronomic Diseases: Local and traditional cuisines often incorporate fresh ingredients and balanced nutrition, which can contribute to better health outcomes and potentially reduce diet-related diseases compared to diets reliant on processed foods.
  5. Sustainable Food in Northern India: Northern India offers a variety of sustainable foods such as locally grown grains (like millets), fresh vegetables and fruits, dairy products, and traditional recipes that use minimal resources and emphasize seasonal ingredients.
  6. Role of Food Reality Shows: Food reality shows can indeed raise awareness about local cuisines by showcasing traditional recipes, local ingredients, and the cultural significance of food. They can inspire people to explore and appreciate their local food heritage.
  7. Initiatives in Educational Institutes and Workspaces: Promoting sustainable gastronomy in educational institutes and workplaces can be effective in cultivating a culture of mindful eating, supporting local food producers, and reducing environmental impact through food choices.
  8. Reducing Food Wastage in Festivals and Celebrations: To address food wastage during celebrations, practices such as better meal planning, portion control, donating excess food to charities, and using eco-friendly packaging can be adopted. Awareness campaigns can also promote responsible consumption.
    By appreciating and promoting sustainable gastronomy, we can contribute to healthier lifestyles, cultural preservation, and environmental sustainability. So, this June 18th, let’s celebrate Sustainable Gastronomy Day! Explore your local farmer’s market, delve into a new recipe featuring seasonal ingredients, or even spark a conversation about responsible food practices with your loved ones. Every small step counts in creating a more sustainable and delicious future for all. Let’s savor the world’s flavors while nurturing the planet that provides them.
    (The writer Dr. Anil Bhat is Assistant Professor, and Rohit Kumar is Project Associate, AEABM, SKUAST-Jammu).
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