MEXICO CITY – The quesadilla had more zip Wednesday and the taco tasted just a bit sweeter as Mexico celebrated its food being put on the United Nations list of intangible cultural heritage, alongside the lofty art of eating in France.
The U.N. Education, Scientific and Cultural Organization recognized everything from the growing of corn, beans and chilies to Mexican dishes prepared with grinding stones and mortars as an ancient process worth safeguarding in the face of encroaching global influences.
"Collectives of female cooks and other practitioners devoted to raising crops and traditional cuisine ... express community identity, reinforce social bonds, and build stronger local, regional and national identities," said the committee of 24 countries that determines the list.
The group, meeting in Kenya this week, announced additions to the list Tuesday that also included flamenco in Spain and carpet-weaving in Azerbaijan.
UNESCO, known for designating world heritage sites such as Peru's Machu Picchu and India's Taj Mahal, also lists traditions such as performing arts or social practices as activities worth preserving.
"I heard about the UNESCO thing this morning on the TV, and I was drooling all morning," Martin Tellez Romero, 45, said as his snack of beef-and-cheese quesadillas sizzled on the griddle of a sidewalk stand. "I couldn't even wait until lunchtime."
The designation doesn't come with any money or other type of protection — just bragging rights, especially considering that Mexican food was honored at the same time that France's iconic, multi-course gastronomic meal was cited for "bringing people together for an occasion to enjoy the art of good eating and drinking."
"People from all over the world buy my quesadillas," said Mexico City sidewalk chef Maria Gonzalez, white braids cascading down her back. "I serve Americans and French people and even Chinese people, and they all say our food is the best."