PAELLA Valenciana has been given cultural heritage status, recognising its importance in the social fabric of the region.
The proposal to award the status was passed by the regional government on Friday in a decree which defines the dish as “the art of bringing together and sharing”.
The regional government’s vice-president, Mónica Oltra said: “Paella is an identity symbol of the Valencian land. Today paella is not only a dish, rather the preparation process which has turned it into a social phenomenon.”
Valencians are well-known for debating the correct ingredients which should go into their traditional dish, and while rice, chicken and rabbit are a must, the jury is still out on the other elements; Should there be artichokes? Are snails a necessity? Must a paella always be prepared with water from the region? ANd what about chorizo?
These topics have been debated for decades and will continue to be discussed by generations of Valencians to come. What the decree recognises, though, is the process of gathering friends and family together, preparing the paella, a lengthy process, while enjoying a cold beer, a few olives, while comparing the way each person’s mother prepares paella or consoling one another over the latest catastrophe caused by Peter Lim at Valencia CF.
The decree also recognises the different versions of the dish throughout the Comunidad Valenciana, although whether chorizo is included on that list is not yet clear. However, the category in which the status has been awarded is that of inmaterial which in this instance roughly means intangible, rather than material which would have meant defining exactly the ingredients to be included in the dish and as Ms Oltra commented, not even the members of the parliament would not have been able to agree on those.
According to Wikipedia, “the category of Bien de Interés Cultural (an asset of cultural heritage status) dates from 1985 when it replaced the former heritage category of National Monument in order to extend protection to a wider range of cultural property”, rather than just fixed monuments. The new definitions meant that festivals and other intangible events could now be protected. The Valencian festival of Las Fallas is one such example, which was awarded the status in 2012, although it then went on to be inscribed in 2016 on UNESCO’s list of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. So, who knows, maybe one day Paella Valenciana will be recognised by UNESCO too.