You might think you’re reading The Onion, but here’s breaking news that’s not fake: Italy has petitioned a United Nations agency to give Neapolitan pizza World Cultural Heritage status.
More than 2 million Italians, who clearly have far too much time on their hands – or too much pizza in their hands – have signed a petition requesting this special status for a special food.The United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) will vote Monday in Seoul, South Korea, on this critically important international issue – assuming war doesn’t break out on the Korean Peninsula first. If it sounds crazy to put pizza on the Intangible Cultural Heritage list, consider the fact that the geniuses at UNESCO have already given six other kinds of food items such revered status. The lucky winners on the list are the Mediterranean diet, Turkish coffee, Croatian gingerbread making, French gastronomy, Mexican cuisine, and washoku (a collective term for traditional Japanese food). Hey, what else do the U.N. bureaucrats have to do? There aren’t any more pressing world issues to deal with, are there? Or am I forgetting something? Now you might expect me to fulminate against the silliness and wastefulness of grown men and women, no doubt making comfortable salaries, spending money given to the United Nations to debate the importance of pizza. But I won’t. Quite to the contrary, I’m thrilled. After all, UNESCO is supposed to be about preserving the world’s true cultural heritage. But instead, the U.N. agency makes a political hash, to use a gastronomic metaphor, of everything it touches. For example, UNESCO recently made Hebron a Palestinian cultural site. But Hebron’s Tomb of the Patriarchs – where Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, Rebecca, Jacob, and Leah are said to be buried – is revered by Jews and Christians worldwide. In other words, UNESCO allows itself to be just one more U.N. mechanism for bashing Israel. The UNESCO process of granting World Cultural Heritage status is so blatantly commercial that a Japanese businessman got a faded silver mine that was closed in 1923 to be declared a UNESCO World Heritage site, even though there was nothing to look at. But that meant that a million tourists a year came to see what was left of the meaningless silver mine, which formerly had only attracted around 15,000 people. Moreover, by declaring places World Cultural Heritage sites, UNESCO actually puts those sites at risk, due to increasing numbers of tourists, combined with lack of funds to care for the sites. It’s almost like the Vietnam War argument of “We had to destroy the village in order to save it.” So if UNESCO wants to mess around with menus, I’m all for it. The high-level diplomats dealing with this major world issue will spend real money for food, transport, and first-class lodging for the vote in Seoul – which could just as well have been taken via Skype or even email. But that wouldn’t have been as much fun, of course. Who could pass up a chance for some delicious kimchi on the world’s taxpayers’ dime? Obviously not the “flying wedge of…gourmets,” as the Wall Street Journal’s editorial page scolded UNESCO way back in the mid-1980s. So if UNESCO wants to play with food, I’m all for it. Doing so will keep the agency from causing more mischief on the international stage. Here are four more foods UNESCO should spend the next two years debating for its Intangible Cultural Heritage list, thus distracting the diplomats from inserting themselves into geopolitical issues outside of their brief. 1. The Subway Foot-long Meatball Sandwich There is much to debate here. Should the length be 12 inches? Longer or shorter? White, wheat, rye or some other kind of bread? What kind of tomato sauce? These and other serious issues could easily take up hundreds of hours of debate. 2. Fenway Franks Must be boiled in a metal urn. But what size, exactly? And what type of metal? Must be carried on the back of a teenager for several innings of baseball – but how many innings? And how should the hot dogs be served? Soft? Firm? Lukewarm? Piping hot? Soggy? With mustard? In what kind of bun? And these are only some of the possibilities for world diplomats to consider. This should be good for at least six months of debate. 3. Haggis This is a delicious (if you’re a Scot) pudding made of sheep's heart, liver and lungs, served in a pouch made from the animal’s stomach. The possibilities for debate on this are endless. What are the precise qualities and measurements required for each ingredient? I doubt the UNESCO folks will embrace this dish, but they sure will love playing golf on the famed the Old Course in St. Andrew’s between ballots. 4. Crow If they had the slightest bit of decency, the UNESCO folks would serve themselves a plate of crow with a side of humble pie. Come on – with all the starving children in the world, you’re really spending piles of money to determine whether Neapolitan pizza is a World Cultural Heritage? Now you know why conservatives want us to stop funding the United Nations. We don’t need anybody telling us how to make pizza. Besides, everybody knows the Chinese invented it!