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The set of gastronomic classics could join the Mediterranean diet and Brazilian capoeira circles if it’s approved.

Melissa Locker
April 22, 2016

Spanish delicacies like patatas bravas, jamón, gambas al ajillo, and tortilla española may soon be protected by UNESCO, but don’t worry—that doesn’t mean you won’t be able to eat them the next time you’re in Madrid.

Spain has requested that UNESCO—the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization—add tapas to their list of Intangible Cultural Heritage, The Local reported.

"Tapas are the very model of food," said Rafael Ansón, the president of Spain’s Royal Academy of Gastronomy, when he announced the plan. Tapas are eligible for inclusion on the list, because they are not just a specific food, but an important part of the Spanish lifestyle and the country’s culture heritage. "Pizza in itself is not intangible," Ansón said. "But the concept of the Mediterranean diet, for example, is."

The Intangible Cultural Heritage list is made up of “heritage elements that concerned communities and States Parties consider require urgent measures to keep them alive," according to the UNESCO website. The list offers a fascinating peek at global traditions, including practices like a Mongolian coaxing ritual for camels, Romanian Lad’s dances, and Brazilian capoeira circles. There’s plenty of food on the list, too, including Korean kimchi, Croatia’s decorated gingerbread, and Turkish coffee culture.

If tapas are added to the list, they will sit alongside other Spanish contributions like flamenco dancing, the “Mediterranean diet,” and “castells,” which The Local describes as “human towers” that pop up during Catalonian festivals.

The proposal to add tapas to the Intangible Cultural Heritage list will take at least a year. "The project is very advanced. The Ministry of Culture will make the formal presentation, but I have spoken to UNESCO and they are already looking into it," Ansón said. Before tapas can be included, it will have to be voted on by all 193 members of the United Nations.

Tapas are not the only food vying for recognition on the Intangible Cultural Heritage list—Italy is hoping that the “art of Neapolitan pizza making” will also be included. The final decision will be handed down in 2017.

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