Peasant communities on the Italian Peninsula relied on local climate and geography to produce fruits, vegetables, and grains. Over centuries, these peasant communities developed a system of food practices which became part of an integrative lifestyle people on the Italian Peninsula are still engaged in today. Through social and familial traditions that passed down through generations, these food practices were coined in the 20th century as the “Mediterranean Diet”. “Diet” in this context is defined by using the etymology of the Greek word ‘diaita’, which means “way of life”. The Mediterranean Diet represents a relationship with food, communities, and environments that promote health in several spaces. From peasant roots, the Mediterranean diet encourages the consumption of whole ingredients from fruits, vegetables, grains, and fish, with little emphasis on meats, poultries, and processed sugars, while also preparing and eating those foods with others. In the 21st century, these traditional food practices represent Personal, Social, and Environmental benefits which occur naturally from plant-based diets and socially minded eating practices. This thesis and creative project discusses the history, culture, science, and relevance of the traditional food practices of the Italian Peninsula and how it can be applied to one’s life. This is accomplished through a synthesis of comprehensive research related to the history and science of the Mediterranean Diet and its relationship to the body, society, and the environment, and engages the reader utilizing creative elements. This thesis encourages the reader to ask and answer the following questions: What does the food we eat mean in our lives? How does the food we eat reflect our values? How does our relationship with food affect our relationships with others? And how does the food we eat affect the world around us?
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