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Seminar: "What is the Mediterranean diet? The reinvention of a traditional diet as bio-cultural capital"

Xaq Frohlich (Auburn University)

Thursday, 25 February 2021, 18 h (CET)

Image Caption: 1932 pamphlet from the Comisión Mixta del Aceite de España

The Mediterranean diet has become big business and a global icon for healthy eating. What was once a traditional diet embedded in local foodways and agrarian practices, today is a heavily promoted healthy lifestyle, public health tool, and regional branding opportunity for diet gurus and food industries alike. This project-in-progress examines how market actors and scientific networks have shaped popular understandings of food, diet, and health, and the role this plays in regional identity politics. I will describe how the the Mediterranean diet was “rediscovered” after World War II, first, as a form of culinary tourism, then, through the Seven Countries epidemiological study, as a global public health tool. I discuss the subsequent marketization of the diet. Scientists and health gurus promoted the Mediterranean diet through cookbooks and diet advice books as a healthy, yet pleasurable lifestyle. Businesses used it as a regional brand to market certain foods, such as olive oil. This project will illustrate how these activities have detached the diet and its foods from local Mediterranean foodways, and transformed it into decontextualized commercial commodities for global exchange.

Xaq Frohlich, PhD, is an assistant professor of history of technology at Auburn University. His research focuses on the intersection of science, law, and markets, and how the three have shaped our modern, everyday understanding of food, risk, and responsibility. He is currently completing a book, “From Label to Table: Regulating Food in the Information Age,” which explores the history of efforts by the US Food and Drug Administration to manage food markets and health risk through the regulation of food standards and informative labels.
Coordina Oliver Hochadel (IMF-CSIC)
Actividad organizada por el Grupo de Historia de la Ciencia, Institución Milá y Fontanals de Investigación en Humanidades (CSIC, Barcelona) 
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