The best food on earth
A collation of chefs in Lima (right) celebrating the ascent of Peruvian cuisine from (left) its Incan and many other origins (left). The world is to play for!
This month World Nutrition starts a new series, 'The best food on earth', and we are delighted that the first commentary is on Peruvian cuisine and that our author Enrique Jacoby is writing about one of the wonders of his own country. Rather suddenly, Peruvian food is a massive tourist attraction, is now being enjoyed all over the world, and is being seen as being at the same level as the food of Mexico, or indeed that of European and Asian countries. Above right is Gastón Acurio, now the most celebrated Peruvian chef, with two other stars. Above left, is where they get much of their inspiration from: the food systems and dietary patterns developed by the Incas and other native nations more than half a millennium ago, and also the ancient traditions of Peruvian commensality, in which food is valued, prepared with care, and enjoyed in company.
Nutrition and cuisine? Isn't gastronomy an enemy of good health? No – or it should not be. As said in this month's WN editorial, this is so only when cuisine becomes separated from its roots in long-established and traditional food systems, evolved in harmony with climate and terrain. A lot went wrong when nineteenth century cookbooks started to invent more and more ways to mix more and more fats and sugars into meals and dishes. This was an unnatural development. For sure, no traditional food system or dietary pattern, however well adapted, is perfect. But then, nobody suggests that industrial food or diet is perfect either!. Ceviche, the Peruvian dish shown at the top of this page, is close to gastronomic and nutritional heaven. It's simply fish or seafood marinaded in lemon, together with whatever else is available or whatever catches the imagination of the cook or chef. Part of the purpose of our series is to go forward to the past. That is to say, to show, as Colin Tudge says in his preface to our commentary this month, that: 'Traditional cooking, rooted in the home, contains the answers to all the world's prime woes: the need for good nutrition, agreeable social life, and autonomy. It needs to be encouraged everywhere'. We intend to play a part in this movement.
A customer buying fresh peppers from a vendor at Marché Jean-Talon, a food market located in Jean-Claude Moubarac's Canadian home city of Montréal
This month, in the second of our new 'I get around' series, Jean-Claude Moubarac also makes the link between flourishing local food systems, and healthy nutrition. Above is a picture taken in the Marché Jean-Talon in Montréal, his Canadian home town. In so many cities now the buyers are biting back, as family farmers find ways of marketing their produce to delighted customers, often with support from city authorities.
Wider and wider...
More writers – and thinkers and activists – who inspire us. Josué de Castro (left), and then Rudolf Virchow, Paulo Freire, Pierre Bourdieu, Amartya Sen
'Wider still and wider shall thy bounds be set' is a phrase from the Great British hymn to Empire, 'Land of Hope and Glory', still sung with intense nostalgia every year at the last night of the Promenade Concerts in London's Royal Albert Hall. Also in tune with Enrique Jacoby and Jean-Claude Moubarac, as pointed out in Geoffrey Cannon's column this month, Association members look for inspiration from a very wide range of writers. Here are five, shown in the picture above. More information about all of them is readily available on the internet. What's striking, is that these people were or are all philosophers, in one way or another, and all were or are deeply engaged in public affairs, from their professional positions in agronomy, pathology, education, sociology, or economics. It's remarkable that public health nutritionists have identified such people as vital inspiration to young colleagues, as Association members did in the series of WN short communications published in April and May? Ah – that's what comes of marrying nutrition with public health!
Down to earth
Last month was a very important time for nutrition and public policy, at the 65th World Food Assembly of the World Health Organization. Modi Mwatsama, whose member's profile we publish this month, was there, on behalf of the Association, and of the International Association for the Study of Obesity, the UK National Heart Forum where she currently works, World Action on Salt and Health, World Cancer Research Fund International, and Consumers International.
On behalf of these leading health professional and civil society organisations, she urged WHO Director-General Margaret Chan, and all WHO member states represented, to take nutrition and public health seriously. Her statement said: 'Food and nutrition are the most important drivers of the recent rise in non-communicable diseases and the worldwide pandemic of obesity... . We urge this Assembly to mandate WHO... to proceed immediately to develop global governance structures and comprehensive food policies which integrate the prevention of non-communicable diseases with the reduction of hunger and the promotion of nutrition security for all' and 'We call on WHO to work with agencies including the Food and Agriculture Organization to support the call for sustainable food production and nutrition security being made at the Rio+20 conference next month'.
She was strongly applauded. The Association and its members, with allied organisations, are working to protect and promote public health and public goods. The signs at the World Health Assembly were that what Modi called for, struck a responsive chord from representatives of a substantial number of member states, and from Margaret Chan and her senior colleagues. We will report more on this.