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Hungary. Water: thirst-quenching, flowing and germinating

Culture / -

© Kimberly WalkerroberthardingCorbis

October 23 is Hungary’s National Day in Expo Milano 2015. This Eastern European country has chosen to base its participation on an extremely simple, common and fundamental element: water.

Hungary is an Eastern European country bisected by the Danube River, which at 2,800 kilometers, is the continent’s second longest river. Hungary is mostly composed of plains, which as well as the Danube are home to the River Tisza, regulated by a series of dams which make it navigable while also generating electricity. It also boasts the famed Lake Balaton, a significant presence in terms of tourism and wealth. Hungary enjoys a continental climate, given its absence of coastline, but its temperatures are mostly mild, thanks to air currents from both the Atlantic and the Mediterranean. This climate ensures extensive and flourishing vegetation and both deciduous and coniferous woodlands. Despite this, January is always an exceptionally cold month, when the average temperature slides below freezing.
A wine originating from a World Heritage region
Agriculture is a growth sector in Hungary, an activity carried out largely by small farms. Over 50% of the country’s area is cultivated: one of the highest percentages in Europe, thanks to which its yield comfortably covers national food needs and leaves a significant amount for exportation. Corn, used mainly as forage, plus wheat, and also barley and rye, are the country’s main crops. Fruit production, particularly apples, plums and apricots, is also widespread and abundant. And mention must be made of the wine-making region of Tokaj-Hegyalja, declared a World Heritage region by UNESCO and birthplace of one of the world’s great wines: Tokaj.
A country with its heart set on preserving water and defending natural products
The participation of Hungary in Expo Milano 2015 is based above all on the importance of the quintessential natural resource: water. The theme of the country’s participation is “From the purest source”, and the aim is to present the virtues of natural and thermal mineral water. Hungary also consistently calls attention to its clear and committed decision in favor of organic farming and against GMOs, and it runs a particularly precise traceability system for its food products. Its Pavilion spreads across 1,910 square meters. Inside, its rich content shows visitors its impressive achievements in sustainability, food quality and the quest for rationalizing the use of water.

Our diet according to the Bible. What we ate in ancient times

Culture / -

bibbia e cibo
Supper at Emmaus by Caravaggio @Corbis_

A useful means of understanding what our ancestors ate is the Bible, rich in food references in both the Old and New Testaments.

The first allusion to food that the Creator gives Man appears in Genesis (1: 29): “Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit. You shall have them for food." But in eating the forbidden fruit, whose symbols had scholars scrambling for thousands of years, Man would have to toil from that moment forward to procure his own food from the earth. After the flood, his diet was no longer vegetarian. "Everything that lives and moves will serve as nourishment" (Genesis 9:3).
When God tells Moses to liberate the Jews from the Egyptian yoke and lead them to the Promised Land (historians identify the escape from Egypt by the Jewish people in the 12th Century BC), it is portrayed as "a land flowing with milk and honey "(Exodus 3:8), food symbolizing pleasure and abundance. Deuteronomy (8:7-9) provides an ideal menu: " For the Lord your God is bringing you into a good land—a land with brooks, streams, and deep springs gushing out into the valleys and hills; a land with wheat and barley, vines and fig trees, pomegranates, olive oil and honey; a land where bread will not be scarce and you will lack nothing."
We read in the Book of Numbers (11:5) how the Jews, wandering in the desert of Sinai, recalled with nostalgia when they were in Egypt and ate "watermelons, melons, leeks, onions, garlic." In Deuteronomy and Leviticus there are also present rules for a division between clean and unclean animals, and those from which to abstain. Isaiah (66:15) predicts divine wrath on "those who eat swine's flesh, detestable things and mice." Among clean beasts was the kid and the calf, fattened especially for a festive occasions.
These foods are food staples in biblical times
According to the findings of funeral offerings in the ancient Near East, it is plausible that the most common foods were loaves of barley, flour, dairy products, fish, garlic, onions, various kinds of fruits and dates, and wine. Eating habits designed to endure over time, as evidenced once again the Bible, in the Second Book of Samuel, which lists the foods brought to King David (around 1000 BC) and his entourage in the camp: "Wheat, barley, flour, parched grain, beans, lentils, honey, curd, cheese from sheep's and cow's milk." Once again it is worth noting the overwhelming predominance of cereals and legumes, only lightly flavored with milk and honey. Similarly, some decades later, when he begins construction of the Temple, King Solomon, son of David, promises to King Hiram I of Tyre that he will provide building materials, twenty thousand measures of wheat (a kor is equivalent to 169 kg), as many of barley, twenty thousand pack-saddles of wine (a pack-saddle is more or less equivalent to 36 liters) and the same amount of olive oil.
The young Daniel and other scions of noble families of Israel had been taken captive by Nebuchadnezzar, who nonetheless wanted that they be treated with respect and ordered Asfenez, the eunuch of the court, that they be fed the king’s food and wine. Daniel and his companions chose "not to defile himself with the royal food and wine which the king drank" (Daniel, 1, 8) and demanded water, grains and legumes, as they were accustomed, reassuring the eunuch that with that diet he would have seen them more beautiful and strong than the king's own sons.
In the Gospels, bread is the food most commonly cited, prepared with wheat flour (Matthew, Luke) or with barley flour (John, Judith, Second Book of Kings) and the New Testament records the primitive method of using grain, plucking fresh ears and rubbing them in their hands to remove the chaff. The fertile soil produced fruit and those mentioned most are grapes, figs and olives that were eaten in brine. A sauce made of vinegar, dates, figs and raisins, called haroset, was used at Easter. Birds as food were never mentioned in the New Testament, except for vague references, however, reference is made to eggs. To add flavor to foods, they used salt, quoted from Job (6:6), whose properties are compared, inter alia,  with ethical teachings in the Gospels (Matthew 5:13; Mark 9:50; Luke 14:34) and in the Epistles (Col 4:6). Other herbs and spices used to enhance food such as mint, dill, cumin and rue. They were all mentioned by Matthew (23:23), which also refers to the mustard plant, whose leaves were cut and used for flavors. With this abundance of legumes, whole grains, fruits and herbs, the Bible could still inspire a more virtuous behavior. Also at the table.
Expo Milano 2015 will be an opportunity to learn about foods of the world, sources of their traditions and the culinary history of Countries. Retracing the past and offering a view to the future, the Pavilions offer an ideal journey through the world of gastronomy. 

Food waste and its impact on natural resources

Economy / -

Food Waste

Food waste pollutes in great quantities in the US and China. The data shows how much it costs.

Food waste globally produces the equivalent of 3.3 giga-tons of CO2 per year, as estimated by the last  FAO Save Food. ”.This amount makes  food waste the third largest producer of CO2 in the world, after the US and China and it is more than double the emissions from the entire transport system in the USA (1.5 giga-tons) and three times that of the European Union (0.9 giga-tons). A giga-ton equals one billion tons.
In one year the amount of water wasted is equivalent to the volume of the Volga River
The amount of water used for the production of food, found both on the surface and underground, that is then wasted is about 250 cubic km,  which corresponds to the amount of water flowing in the Volga in one year. It puts food waste as the first nation in the world in this unenviable ranking.
The amount of land wasted is an area greater than that of Canada
In 2007, the land occupied from foods that were wasted, according to data from the FAO report, was about 1.4 billion hectares, an area larger than that of Canada and China, and second only to that of the Russian Federation.
A massive impact on biodiversity
Also noteworthy is the impact of waste on biodiversity. Growing food, in fact, is one of the major threats to biodiversity with the production of grains which accounts for the largest part of farming,  is  proportion of about 70 to 30.
The financial costs of waste
In addition to the value of the food that is not consumed, one must also consider the value of natural resources involved up through the production phase. Considering that in the future, these resources, which include land and water will be scarce, their value is likely to increase. Food waste in the wealthiest nations contributes directly to world hunger. All nations, whether rich or poor, buy food items on the same international market. If countries with more economic possibilities buy hundreds of millions of tons of food that then go to waste, they have then removed food from the market that would otherwise have been purchased by other nations. The greater demand corresponds to an increase in prices that has and will always have a direct impact on the purchasing power of the countries in the developing world.
Impact on natural resources increases along the production chain
The impact of food waste on natural resources increases all along the production process. When considered in its entirety, the production phase has the greatest impact on natural resources, while every other phase implies additional environmental impact. This means that if a given food is wasted, its impact on the environment will be increased by the number of phases of production that have been made.

Over a million people are already #FoodConscious. What about you?

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