There is perhaps nothing more closely bound up with one’s national identity than food. Specific local dishes are often seen as the embodiment of various cultures and many nations promote their food as a celebration of national identity. Sometimes, however, a country’s cuisine can also be used to highlight national rivalries, The Atlantic writes.
In the volatile Caucasus region, it seems that such food fights have now been taken to a whole new level. The Atlantic writes, quoting Eurasianet.org, that many Armenians are up in arms about a recent UNESCO decision to add the Anatolian stew “Keshkek” to its Intangible Cultural Heritage List on behalf of Turkey. They claim that “Keshkek” is actually an Armenian meal called “Harissa.”
Now a group of ethnographers from Armenia are actually compiling information on the dish to appeal the ruling by the UN’s cultural agency.
Armenia, meanwhile, has itself come under fire from Azerbaijan, which has accused its neighbor and regional nemesis of “cuisine plagiarism.” Baku’s National Security Ministry has even set up a National Cuisine Center to reinforce its claim to the nation’s cuisine and, in particular, to help counter any Armenian efforts to appropriate what it feels are Azerbaijani dishes.
The “Tolma” dish, which consists of meatballs wrapped in grape leaves, seems to be a particular bone of contention between the two countries, especially since Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev publicly announced last year that it was an Azeri national dish.
This provoked a furious response in Armenia and various initiatives have been launched to help save the country’s national dishes from “occupants.” This even includes holding an annual Tolma Festival to reinforce the idea that it is a typically Armenian food.
“Whatever the upshot of these culinary claims and counterclaims, it sadly doesn’t seem like these regional rivals will be sitting down to break bread with each other anytime soon,” the article concludes.