This is the REAL Mediterranean diet
This is a photo of a picture that hangs on the wall above my dining table. It was painted by the Italian artist Renato Guttuso in 1974 and is called La Vucirria, after the marketplace in Palermo, Sicily. I love this picture, because it is portrays the ordinary and the richness of daily life: human interaction, menacing rivalry, shopping, and of course food.
Italy is a country where the food culture remains sacrosanct, despite scheming corporate moves to control and distort culinary traditions. Even the government is alarmed and has moved to head off threats to the nation’s revered, food-loving identity. It recently approved a bill to ban cell-based laboratory food, and has plans to place restrictions on the labelling of fake meat products, prohibiting terms such as “tofu steak” and “vegan mortadella”. The government’s stated aim is to “protect national livestock heritage”.
Sicily is an island in the middle of the Mediterranean. Guttuso’s painting depicts typical Mediterranean foods: fish, meat, eggs, olives, fruits and vegetables. You can see two big mortadella hams in the background of the image, with their distinctive chunks of fat embedded in the cured pork. There’s a huge beef carcass and what looks like a skinned rabbit hanging next to it. In front of the mortadella is a variety of large cheeses. Cheese, in all its countless, glorious incarnations is a major feature in the Italian diet and indeed across the whole Mediterranean region.
What you see here is the real Mediterranean diet, not the fictitious one that is often portrayed as a paragon of health and longevity. The recently constructed “Mediterranean diet” that you read about everywhere is the subject of many studies, where it magically outperforms all other diets and provides the rationale for the health and longevity of the peoples of the region. That’s quite an achievement, for something that doesn’t exist. Below is a guide to how you should eat, according to the diet’s enthusiasts.