I vaguely knew that UNESCO celebrates the cultures and practices of peoples and places around the globe, but I’ve never taken the time to look over the agency’s list of ‘intangible cultural heritage’ until today. My friend, Bora, sent me a link to a news item reporting that šljivovica (we call it slivovitz) has been added to the UNESCO list, so I went looking for confirmation and I found my way to the official entry here: Social practices and knowledge related to the preparation and use of the traditional plum spirit – šljivovica.
To get to that page, I glanced through the other items added this year by the Intergovernmental Committee for the Safeguarding of Intangible Cultural Heritage. It’s a fascinating list that includes crafting and playing the oud, beekeeping in Slovenia, Holy Week in Guatemala and festivals related to the journey of the Holy family in Egypt, the popular folk song of Algeria called Raï, harissa and Cuban light rum and the French baguette. You can travel the world just by scrolling through those entries. Human culture and art and cuisine is just awesome.
Tonight I’m going to toast UNESCO and humanity with a bit of plum brandy. I have half a dozen bottles to choose from – backyard distilled Serbian šljivovica that Bora’s brought back in his luggage, a Romanian version a neighbor once gave me, a version made in Oregon, or the bottle of Yebiga rakija I bought at a liquor store in Georgetown. Bora was here just last Saturday afternoon; I made oven-roasted chicken shawarma (NYTimes recipe) and we sat at the dinner table, ate a meal and sipped the very good rakija, and talked until dark.
© Anton Zuiker