Disneyland for foodies: Italy to open gastronomic theme park

Fishmongers present Mediterranean fresh sea catch at a stand during a press tour at FICO Eataly World agri-food park in Bologna on November 9. FICO Eataly World, said to be the world’s biggest agri-food park, will open to the public on November 15. (AFP)
Updated 10 November 2017
0

Disneyland for foodies: Italy to open gastronomic theme park

BOLOGNA, Italy: A gastronomic theme park designed as a celebration of Italy’s field-to-fork food culture opens next week with backers aiming to pull in six million visitors a year.
Dubbed a ‘Disneyland for foodies’ and billed as the biggest venture of its kind in the world, FICO Eataly World is located on the outskirts of Bologna.
It is the brainchild of Oscar Farinetti, the entrepreneur behind Eataly, a global network of upmarket Italian food halls that has taken New York and a string of other major cities around the world by storm in recent years.
Spread over ten hectares (25 acres), the park, which will operate as a conference venue as well as a tourist attraction, will be run by a partnership of Eataly and Italian retail group Coop.
The venue has been financed by a consortium of private investors and the local authorities in a city famed for its rich cuisine but off Italy’s main tourist track.
The FICO of the park’s name comes from the acronym for Fabbrica Italiana Contadina (Italian Farming Factory). Fico is also the Italian word for a fig, and a popular slang term for ‘cool’.
The multiple meaning is in keeping with Farinetti’s multi-faceted vision of a venue that will allow visitors to take part in activity workshops ranging from food photography to gelato-making via the basics of truffle hunting.
A fifth of the park, assembled in what was the city’s wholesale fruit and vegetable market, is outdoors with some 200 animals and 2,000 species of plant life due to be on show.
“Education is fundamental to the whole thing. But it is also about having fun, eating, shopping,” Farinetti said in an interview ahead of Wednesday’s opening.
The park is also about celebrating the culinary and farming crafts that lie behind many of Italy’s most famous gastronomic products, and the bio-diversity of a country that stretches from Mediterranean islands within sight of Africa to snow-capped Alpine peaks.

Visitors can explore that diversity via more than 40 eateries and a similar number of learn-how-its-done displays by specialist producers of everything from rare-breed beef to liquorice sweets.
As the opening date nears, Farinetti says he is caught between rampant enthusiasm at seeing a dream realized, and “total panic.”
“This for me is quite normal. I’m terrified that people won’t come in the numbers we expect. You can’t help but feel panicked when you start something like this.”
Park CEO Tiziana Primori said the target was to be drawing six million visitors a year by 2020, with the business plan envisaging a third coming from the local area, a third from the rest of Italy and a final tranche of around two million from abroad.
Asked if that target is realistic, Farinetti responds with a broad smile. “No, it’s utopian, but every project I have been involved with has been utopian. The whole world is realistic, I prefer utopia. I don’t know if we will make it but we’ll give it our all.”
Underpinning that ebullience is the success enjoyed by almost all of the Eataly stores that have been opened from Copenhagen to Sao Paolo.
“At the moment there is an absolutely crazy interest in Italian food from the citizens of the world, for pasta, for pizza, for our simple cuisine,” said Farinetti.
That, he says, is down to the ease in which dishes tasted in Italy or in restaurants can be reproduced in domestic kitchens.
“You can buy half a kilo of pasta, some extra virgin olive oil and San Marzano tomatoes and go home and make what you had. And it is very digestible and light.”
Among those backing Farinetti’s vision is Antonio Capaldo, owner of the Feudi San Gregorio wine company and one of dozens of entrepreneurs involved in the project.
Capaldo has teamed up with a seafood wholesaler to create a fish-based fast-food eatery at the park, which will showcase his expanding company’s white and sparkling wines.
“We know all the complications but there is a great thirst for Italian culture around the world, and that, combined with Oscar’s track record, is why we are betting on this being a success,” he said.


Low-carb diet linked to elevated mortality risk: study

Updated 17 August 2018
0

Low-carb diet linked to elevated mortality risk: study

  • Rapid shift 10,000 years ago to grains, dairy and legumes has not allowed the human body enough time to adapt to these high-carb foods, say researchers
  • Replacing meat with plant-based fats (such as avocados and nuts) and proteins (such as soy products and lentils) reduces the risk of mortality

PARIS: Middle-aged people who get roughly half their daily calories from carbohydrates live several years longer on average than those with low-carb diets, researchers reported Friday.
The findings, published in The Lancet, challenge a trend in Europe and North America toward so-called Paleo diets that shun carbohydrates in favor of animal protein and fat.
Proponents of these “Stone Age” diets argue that the rapid shift 10,000 years ago — with the advent of agriculture — to grains, dairy and legumes has not allowed the human body enough time to adapt to these high-carb foods.
For the study, under 40 percent of energy intake from carbohydrates qualifies as a low-carb regimen, though many such diets reduce the share to 20 percent or less.
At the other extreme, a 70 percent or higher share of carbohydrates — such as pasta, rice, cakes, sugary drinks — can also reduce longevity, but by far less, the scientists found.
“Low-carb diets that replace carbohydrates with protein or fat are gaining widespread popularity as a health and weight loss strategy,” said lead author Sara Seidelmann, a researcher at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston.
“However, our data suggests that animal-based low carbohydrate diets might be associated with shorter overall lifespan and should be discouraged.”
Replacing meat with plant-based fats (such as avocados and nuts) and proteins (such as soy products and lentils) reduces the risk of mortality, Seidelmann and her team found.
The optimal balance of food groups for longevity remains hotly debated.
Many studies have concluded that eating carbohydrates in moderation — 45 to 55 percent calories — is best, but others report improved short-term, cardio-metabolic health with high-protein, high-fat diets.
Measures of metabolic health include blood pressure, good and bad cholesterol, and blood sugar levels.
Seidelmann and colleagues poured over the medical histories of nearly 15,500 men and women who were 45-64 when they enrolled — between 1987 and 1889 — in a health survey spread across four locations in the United States.
Participants filled out detailed questionnaires about their dietary habits — what foods, how much, how often, etc.
Over a 25-year follow up period, more than 6,000 of the men and women died.
People who got 50-55 percent of their calories from carbohydrates outlived those with very low-carb diets, on average, by four years, and those with high-carb diets by one year.
A review of medical records for an additional 432,000 people from earlier studies yield confirmed the results, which are also in line with World Health Organization (WHO) recommendations.
“There is nothing to be gained from long-term adherence to low-carbohydrate diets rich in fats and proteins from animal origins,” said Ian Johnson, a nutrition researcher at Quadram Institute Bioscience in Norwich, England, commenting on the research, in which he did not take part.
But carb quality, not just quantity, is crucial he added.
“Most should come from plant foods rich in dietary fiber and intact grains, rather than from sugary beverages or manufactured foods high in added sugar.”
Fibers also help maintain a healthy gut flora, now considered to be a major player in health and disease.